CHAMPAIGN — There have been five cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Champaign County this year, three of them in July and August, according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
There hasn’t been a common link established among the five cases, said health district epidemiologist Awais Vaid.
One of the local persons who became ill with Legionnaires’ has underlying health conditions, Vaid said. Certain conditions leave people more vulnerable to serious lung infections and other symptoms that can develop from Legionella bacteria.
This year’s cases occurred in the wake of eight in Champaign County last year, four of which were linked to a decorative water fountain at Champaign’s First Christian Church, according to public health data.
People generally become infected with Legionella bacteria when they breathe in small droplets of contaminated water.
Illinois has about 300 cases of reported Legionnaires’ disease a year, with the three most recent cases reported in the past few weeks, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The most recent case, involving a resident at the Manteno Veterans Home, was reported Wednesday. Two other cases were reported by IDPH on Aug. 20 and were linked to the AmericInn by Wyndham Hotel in Schaumburg.
Reports of Legionnaires’ disease and outbreaks have been on the rise in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There has also been more awareness and attention paid to Legionnaires’, Vaid said.
“I think that is why you’re seeing a lot more,” he said.
People can be at risk from Legionnaires’ disease even from the water sources in their own homes, Vaid said.
To be on the safe side, hot water heaters should be flushed and cleaned every few years, and shower heads should be cleaned periodically, he said.
Hot tubs are another potential bacteria breeding spot if the water isn’t maintained at high-enough temperatures, Vaid said.
While Legionnaires’ disease is treatable with antibiotics, it kills one in 10 people who get it.
Most healthy people don’t get the disease after being exposed to the bacteria, but there are some major factors that raise the risk for falling ill, according to the CDC.
They include being 50 or older; being a current or former smoker; having chronic lung disease, such as emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; and having a disease or taking a medication that weakens the immune system.