Health Officials Investigating 2 Cases of Legionnaires’ Disease


Colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) with moderately-high magnification depicts a large grouping of Gram-negative Legionella pneumophila bacteria. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The Illinois Department of Public Health said late last week it was investigating two cases of Legionnaires’ disease in patients who had received treatment at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

IDPH, along with the Chicago Department of Public Health, visited the South Side facility last week to test the facility’s water, collect information and further investigate the cases.

In a statement, the hospital said it has a “comprehensive water management program that follows the highest federal standards. Testing of hospital water has shown no evidence of Legionella growth. We are confident all our patients are safe.”

Health officials say the investigation is limited to the Hyde Park facility and the general public is not at risk.

IDPH’s report comes less than a week after it announced it was investigating a report of Legionella in the water system at Mercy Hospital & Medical Center and two cases of Legionnaires’ disease in patients who were possibly exposed to the bacteria at the hospital. A spokesperson for IDPH said the cases at Mercy Hospital and the University of Chicago Medical Center are not related, but said there have been four cases of Legionnaires’ disease confirmed since April 26 with possible links to Chicago hospitals.

Legionnaires’ disease is a flu-like malady caused by inhaling water vapor infected with Legionella bacteria. Most people do not get Legionnaires’ after exposure to Legionella bacteria, and the disease is not transmitted from person to person. Elderly people and those with compromised immune systems are particularly susceptible to the disease.

Health officials said the latest individuals were patients at the Hyde Park hospital for part of the time when they could have been exposed to the bacteria. Both individuals also received care elsewhere, according to an IDPH press release.

The University of Chicago Medical Center said it is working with state and local health authorities to find the “exact source of the bacteria inside or outside our health system.” The hospital said it didn’t have any information about water testing at other sites these patients may have visited.

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