SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), along with the DuPage County Health Department (DCHD), is investigating three cases of Legionnaires’ disease in individuals who were patients at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. One individual was an inpatient, and the second and third individuals had outpatient visits. These patients could have acquired the infection at the hospital, but they also had other possible sources of exposure during the 10 days before they started showing symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends public health officials conduct a full investigation into the source of Legionella in a health care facility after identifying two or more cases possibly associated with the facility within 12 months of each other.
IDPH is working with DCHD and the hospital to collect information and further investigate these cases, which will include another on-site visit by IDPH to test the facility’s water. Central DuPage Hospital is working with IDPH to strengthen its water management plan and implement multiple control measures. The hospital has also taken actions outlined in its water management plan, including flushing the plumbing system.
The hospital is working to provide information to potentially impacted patients and employees about Legionella. IDPH recommended the hospital conduct surveillance to identify other potential cases and to ensure appropriate testing and clinical management.
Legionella bacteria occur naturally in the environment. Water containing Legionella can be aerosolized through cooling towers, showers, hot tubs, and decorative fountains, and can cause Legionnaire’s disease, a serious lung infection (pneumonia) when inhaled. Legionnaires’ disease is not passed from person to person. Outbreaks are most commonly associated with buildings or structures that have complex water systems like hotels, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and cruise ships. The bacteria can become a health concern when they grow and spread in human-made water systems, like hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, and decorative fountains. Most healthy people do not get Legionnaires’ disease after being exposed to Legionella bacteria.