The Legionnaires Outbreak In Illinois VA Has Infected Over 50 Victims And Resulted In 8 Fatalities So Far. Health Officials Have Yet To Identify The Source Of The Infection.
According to state officials, eight individuals have died from a Legionnaires Outbreak in a western Illinois town. In addition to the eight deaths, over 50 residents of the town have reported cases of Legionnaires disease. The Illinois Department of Public Health stated that the most recent outbreak is not associated with another Legionnaires outbreak in the same town, which also sickened 50 people earlier this year.
According to the County Health Department, all eight of the fatalities were caused by a combination of Legionnaire’s disease and underlying medical conditions, including advanced age. Legionnaire’s disease is a severe form of pneumonia, which has a two-week incubation period before the first symptoms are seen. What makes this disease so dangerous is that the illness can be spread before symptoms are seen, which enables infected individuals to transmit the disease from person to person before they realize they are sick. Because of the disease’s ability to spread quickly, Illinois health officials expect more individuals with weakened immune systems to die. [http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/09/02/8-dead-in-legionnaires-outbreak-at-illinois-veterans-home/, October 2015]
Most of the deaths have occurred in a Veteran’s facility in the town, but Illinois is not the only state facing an unexpectedly large outbreak of legionnaire’s disease. Individuals in California and New York are also reporting high case numbers and multiple fatalities. Currently, the source of the outbreak is unknown, but health officials first saw the first cases in late August. The CDC is currently investigating the veteran’s facility in Illinois to determine how the disease was spread and if the facility took enough precautions to prevent the spread of the illness.
Symptoms of Legionnaires disease include coughing, muscle aches, fever, and breathing difficulties. Typically, cases are treated with antibiotics. Health officials do not believe that there is a widespread risk for the general public- just individuals in close association with the facility. However, the unusually large number of cases throughout the United States this year indicates that the source of the disease has yet to be found. Until the source is identified, it may be more likely for the general public to be infected as well.
According to the CDC, about 200 people in each state are sickened by Legionaries disease each year. However, more people have been sickened and died this year than is usual. The disease is usually spread through contaminated water. Inhaling mist or vapor from contaminated water systems is the usual method of infection. To stop the spread of the disease, the VA hospital is giving residents bottled water and bathing the residents with sponge baths. The facility is cleaning all pipes and water storage tanks in an effort to kill the bacteria spreading the disease.
Health officials are advising the elderly who live in nearby areas to infection sites to watch their water intake and to avoid known sites of infection. Residents of the facility are not restricted from leaving unless they show symptoms of the disease.