Batavia woman one of two new Legionnaires' cases outside senior living community
An outbreak of Legionnaires' disease has spread beyond a Batavia senior living community, with two additional cases confirmed in the surrounding area.
Public health officials are warning residents of Covenant Living at the Holmstad, as well as those living within a mile of the facility, to be on the lookout for symptoms of respiratory illness that could stem from exposure to Legionella bacteria.
Twelve people living in the retirement community at 700 W. Fabyan Parkway have been diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease since late August. On Thursday, the Illinois Department of Public Health received reports of two community-based cases, bringing the total number to 14, the agency said in a news release.
A definitive cause has not been determined, but health officials say the two new cases prompted them to test additional samples at the Holmstad and within a 1-mile radius of the campus. The state health department also has "recommended remediation steps of suspected sources," agency leaders said.
"As the epidemiological and environmental investigation of this Legionnaires' disease cluster continues, it is important to release this information to ensure that nearby residents are aware and seek treatment if they become symptomatic," public health department Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a written statement.
Angela Prusinski, who lives about three blocks from the Holmstad, said she started feeling under the weather after a family picnic Sept. 1. But with some underlying health conditions and having undergone surgery in July, she thought, "Maybe I just overdid it today."
When she woke up Labor Day morning, however, she had the chills, complained of muscle aches and "felt awful," she said. "Worse than the flu."
Prusinski went to the emergency room that night with stomach aches and cramping but hadn't complained of respiratory problems yet. After finding that her white blood cell count was elevated, doctors prescribed a broad-spectrum antibiotic and sent her home.
She returned to the hospital Sept. 7 knowing "something wasn't right," Prusinski said. Tests revealed she had elevated blood pressure and a high resting heart rate -- and then doctors found she had bacterial pneumonia in her left lung.
Prusinski underwent more tests and was sent home Sept. 10. Two days later, she got a call from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kane County Health Department saying she has Legionnaires' disease.
The serious lung infection is not transmitted person-to-person but is contracted after breathing in small droplets of water containing Legionella bacteria, according to the state health department. Outbreaks are most commonly associated with structures that have complex water systems, such as hotels, hospitals, long-term care facilities or cruise ships.
Covenant Living has been implementing several measures at the Holmstad campus aimed at mitigating potential bacteria, including flushing the water, installing filters and cleaning cooling towers, said Uche Onwuta, director of disease prevention at the Kane County Health Department. The two cases outside the retirement facility are included in the outbreak because of proximity, she said, noting the water droplets through which Legionella spreads can travel about a mile.
Most people who are in good health do not get Legionnaires' disease after exposure, Onwuta said. Those with a higher risk for infection include people 50 and older, current or former smokers, patients with a chronic disease or those with a weakened immune system, among other factors.
Symptoms typically take up to two weeks to develop, health officials said. Early signs include a high fever, chills, muscle aches, a cough and shortness of breath.
Those who experience similar symptoms are encouraged to seek immediate medical care, and local clinicians are asked to test patients with suspected pneumonia for Legionnaires' disease.
"The (health departments) and the Holmstad are working together to ensure that we identify the source of the contamination and implement the right intervention to see the end of the outbreak," Onwuta said. "There's nobody that wants to see this outbreak end more than these three (agencies)."