McHenry County Department of Health
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Health Department provides update on Legionnaires' Disease

Post Date:07/23/2018 9:02 AM

Contact Keri Zaleski
815-334-4456; cell 815-236-3238

McHenry County Department of Health (MCDH) reports that no new cases of Legionnaires’ disease have occurred since July 1.  There is an ongoing investigation, conducted in partnership with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  During the investigation, 3 additional cases (1 from out of State and 2 from out of County) that visited McHenry County in June were identified.  It was determined that these cases and the cases of three McHenry County residents did not have any common sources of exposure.  Six people have been identified as having a potential common source of exposure, thought to be within a 1.5 mile radius of the intersection of Walkup Road and Route 176 in Crystal Lake

Authorities have conducted interviews and environmental assessments to establish a possible connection between cases.  Results of the environmental assessments will not be available for about six weeks.   According to Joe Gugle, Acting Health Department Administrator, “Many environmental samples have been collected, however, it is often the case that a single source is never found, which is not surprising or unusual considering that Legionella bacteria are pervasive in our natural environment.”

“So far this year, McHenry County has seen an increase of Legionnaires’ disease cases.  This year’s increase is also being seen within our region and the State, along with a national increase over the last decade.”  Says Susan Karras, RN, MCDH Director of Nurses.  “Most people exposed to Legionella bacteria will not get sick. However, it can cause severe illness, especially in individuals with risk factors. We are encouraging healthcare providers to consider Legionnaires’ disease for any individuals presenting with lower respiratory symptoms, particularly those that are at increased risk.”

Seen more frequently in hot weather, Legionnaires’ disease, which leads to pneumonia-like symptoms, is caused by Legionella bacteria.   This infection poses the greatest risk for people 50 years of age or older and for those who have certain risk factors such as being a current or former smoker, having a chronic disease, or having a weakened immune system.  Symptoms typically begin 2-10 days after exposure and can include cough, muscle aches, fever, shortness of breath, and headache. Diarrhea and mental confusion are also common.

You can become ill by breathing in a mist, or small droplets of water containing Legionella bacteria. Legionella bacteria are found naturally in freshwater environments like lakes and streams.  They can become a health concern when found in building water systems, such as the water used for showering, hot tubs, cooling towers, decorative fountains, and hot water tanks.   Home and car air-conditioning units do not use water to cool the air and are not generally believed to be a risk for Legionella growth. Legionella bacteria do not spread from person-to-person, except under rare circumstances.

MCDH is working closely with IDPH and the CDC to investigate these occurrences.  The Health Department continues to encourage that individuals consult with their Healthcare Provider if they experience symptoms. For more information visit www.cdc.gov/legionella.

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