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Advocate Christ Legionnaires Disease Outbreak

Posted in Legionella,Legionnaire's disease,Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls on June 27, 2019

In breaking news, the Illinois Department of Health announced that it is investigating multiple cases of Legionnaires’ disease linked to Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois. Three patients and an employee at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn are sick with Legionnaires’ Disease, prompting the investigation by state health officials. Here is everything we know thus far about the Advocate Christ Legionnaires Disease Outbreak:

The Outbreak

The Illinois Department of Public Health reports it is actively investigating four (4) cases of the disease with each person having visited the prominent hospital. Two of those people visited the hospital in the last two months according to health officials.

IDPH said it was working with the hospital to collect information on the cases, but its investigation is “currently limited to this hospital.”

The media reports that local and state health officials and investigators are going to conduct on-site tests of the hospital’s water after confirming the reports of Legionnaires’ disease. According to NBC Chicago, “Water samples to test for Legionella bacteria have been collected from the hospital, the officials said. The bacteria are transmitted through drops of water and can cause serious lung infections and possibly death. The bacteria mixes with the air in showers or fountains, and can cause illness when inhaled.”

The health agency confirmed that the investigation was ongoing at this time. “The hospital is working with IDPH to strengthen its water management plan and implement multiple control measures,” the agency stated in a news release. “IDPH has recommended the facility provide information to potentially impacted patients and families about Legionella. Additionally, IDPH recommended that the facility conduct surveillance to identify other potential cases and to ensure appropriate testing and clinical management.”

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

For those who may have never heard of it before (and you are not alone) Legionnaires’ disease is the common name for a legionella infection. These infections are also called Legionellosis or infection with the bacteria Legionnella pneumophila.  Health officials estimate that 10,000 to 18,000 people in the United States are infected with Legionnaires’ disease every year.

One big concern with Legionnaires’ disease is that it sometimes goes undiagnosed. This is due to the similarity to symptoms of pneumonia — and the fact that the most susceptible population to the disease is also more susceptible to pneumonia.

It is common that a patient presenting with symptoms of the disease can be mistaken for pneumonia, For the record, the symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include:

  • cough that can be either dry or productive (with or without bloody sputum)
  • headache
  • high fever with chills
  • weakness or fatigue
  • muscle aches
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • gastrointestinal issues (see below)
  • lethargy
  • mental changes (such as confusion)

For Legionnaires’, symptoms often include watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, or even changes in heart rate or a lower blood pressure.  Unless the physician expects Legionnaires’ disease as a diagnosis, the very specific tests to determine if the person in fact has been infected with the legionella bacteria are often not necessarily ordered.  This is why, if you believe you have Legionnaires’ disease urgent medical attention is recommended.

How Do You Get Legionnaires’?

Legionnaires’ is contracted when a person breathes in small droplets of water from the air that contains the harmful bacteria Legionella.  While it is not a very common mode of transmission, Legionnaires’ disease can be contracted by aspiration of contaminated drinking water.  This happens when water “goes down the wrong pipe,” where a person is drinking and the water enters the trachea or windpipe instead of going down the throat into the digestive tract.  Those with existing swallowing difficulties are more likely to be at risk for this method of transmission.  This disease is generally not spread from person to person except for very rare circumstances.

The bacteria are more commonly found in nature in fresh water environments in places like lakes and streams.  Most cases occur when Legionella finds its way into human-made water systems such as building plumbing.  These are areas such as hot tubs, hot water tanks and heaters, larger plumbing systems, and decorative fountains.  Legionella is also a concern for air-conditioning system cooling towers found in large buildings.  Air-conditioning units in homes and in cars do not use water to cool the air, so they do not have the same risk factors for Legionella growth that large buildings have.

Hot tubs in particular are at a very high risk for being contaminated with Legionella bacteria.  This bacterium grows best in warm water, such as that used in hot tubs.  Unfortunately, this warm environment makes it hard to keep disinfectants, such as chlorine, at high enough levels to kill harmful bacteria like Legionella.  For this reason, chemical levels in hot tubs should be monitored regularly and should be cleaned as recommended by the manufacturer.

Don’t Forget to Report!

The state of Illinois reminds its residents (and medical providers) online to report their Legionnaires’ disease illnesses. According to the IDPH website, “Legionellosis is a reportable disease in the state of Illinois, and cases must be reported to the local health department within seven days.  Timely reporting allows identification of additional cases and control of possible contaminated sources.”

Medical attention is highly recommended if you believe you have Legionnaires’ disease.

The Lange Law Firm 

Our mission is to help families who have been harmed by contaminated food or water.  When corporations cause food poisoning outbreaks or Legionnaires disease outbreaks, we use the law to hold them accountable.  The Lange Law Firm is the only law firm in the nation solely focused on representing families in food poisoning lawsuits and Legionnaires disease lawsuits.

If you were infected with Legionnaires disease after visiting or living in Union County, New Jersey, and are interested in making a legal claim for compensation, our Legionnaires’ disease lawyer can help.  Call us for a free no obligation legal consultation at 833.330.3663, or send us an e-mail here.

By: The News Desk