One dead, two others sickened by Legionnaires' disease at Vernon Hills senior living center
Lake County health officials are investigating a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that killed one resident and sickened two others at a senior living center in Vernon Hills.
Mark Pfister, executive director of the Lake County Health Department, said Wednesday his office received reports late Monday of three cases of Legionnaires' disease at Brookdale Senior Living.
The symptoms of Legionnaires' disease can mirror pneumonia's.
"We urge any residents and visitors of the Brookdale facility who are currently experiencing pneumonia symptoms -- cough, shortness of breath, headache, muscle aches and fever -- to see a doctor right away for testing," said Dr. Sana Ahmed, medical epidemiologist at the health department. "Early treatment of Legionnaires' disease reduces the severity of the illness and improves your chances for recovery."
Heather Hunter, who works in public relations for Brookdale's corporate office, said the facility's staff alerted Lake County health authorities about the cases as soon as possible Monday and has followed the agency's guidelines since.
"Our greatest concern is the health of the residents of our community, so we have responded quickly and proactively to this situation," she said.
Hunter said she couldn't comment on the condition of those made sick by the outbreak because they are independent living residents and do not receive medical care from the company. The Vernon Hills center houses both independent and assistant living residents.
Experts have not yet identified the source of the bacteria, Hunter added. She said the company has turned off drinking fountains and closed the building's pool and spa, and workers are flushing water lines, cleaning shower heads and adding water filters.
Legionnaires' is a serious lung infection spread by breathing in small droplets of water containing Legionella bacteria. Outbreaks are most commonly associated with buildings or other structures with complex water systems.
According to the health department, most healthy people do not get Legionnaires' disease after being exposed to the bacteria. People at increased risk include those 50 or older, current or former smokers and those suffering from other illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes or liver failure.
Brookdale Senior Living is located on Milwaukee Avenue in Vernon Hills