Four Cases of Legionnaires’ Disease in Past Year
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), three patients and one staff member at Oak Lawn’s Advocate Christ Medical Center have tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease since 2018, including two people who were patients in the past two months. State health officials have sent investigators to conduct on-site tests of the hospital’s water after confirming the reports of Legionella pneumophila, the bacterium that causes Legionnaires’ disease which can grow in building water supplies.
This is the third time in two months that Illinois health officials have investigated possible cases of Legionnaires’ disease at Chicago-area hospitals. They also visited Mercy Hospital in April and the University of Chicago Medical Center in May.
GWC’s Louis C. Cairo has represented Legionnaires’ disease victims in the past. He told CBS 2 News Chicago that hospitals are particularly vulnerable to Legionnaires’ disease because they have large water systems and patients with compromised immune systems.
“You have huge systems of water that sometimes stay stagnant for long periods of time,” said Mr. Cairo. “They would have an even higher responsibility to make sure that they’re doing everything they can to safely maintain their water systems, flushing it out on a regular basis.”
Officials are working to determine whether the outbreak occurred inside the hospital or somewhere else. The IDPH has recommended that Advocate Christ Medical Center provide information to potentially impacted patients and families about the bacteria. The department has also asked the hospital to “conduct surveillance” to identify other potential cases.
Sources have told CBS 2 News Chicago that some employees at Advocate Christ Medical Center have been warned by their supervisors not to drink the water at the facility.
Legionnaires’ Disease: Important Facts
Legionnaires’ disease is an atypical form of pneumonia. First identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) following an outbreak at an American Legion Convention in Philadelphia in 1976, Legionnaires’ disease is potentially fatal.
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by infection with the bacterium Legionella pneumophila, which may be found naturally in fresh water. The bacterium can contaminate air conditioner cooling towers, hot tubs, water tanks, showers, and decorative fountains. Legionella pneumophila is spread when people breathe in mist that contains the bacterium, though it does not typically spread directly between people.
Legionnaires’ disease has an incubation period of two to ten days, meaning it may take that long for people exposed to the bacterium to develop or show signs of infection. Early symptoms include muscle pains, headaches, and general discomfort (malaise), while later ones may include a dry cough, shortness of breath, high fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In extreme cases, the disease may result in coma and death.
While anyone could be infected, Legionnaires’ disease typically targets those who are already in a vulnerable or weakened state, including the elderly, diabetics, smokers, and those with poor immune function or chronic lung disease.
Roughly 1,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease are reported to the CDC each year, though this number is likely far lower than the actual infection rate for the disease since medical professionals typically do not look out for it.
Legionnaires’ disease is treated with antibiotics, including fluoroquinolones, doxycycline, and azithromycin. Hospitalization may be required, and approximately ten percent of infected people die. There is no current vaccination available to prevent Legionnaires’ disease.
Illinois Personal Injury Attorneys
If you or a loved one has contracted Legionnaires’ disease while at an infected hospital or another facility, contact the Illinois personal injury attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
With over $2 billion recovered for our clients and more than four decades in the business, GWC is one of the premier Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firms in Illinois.