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Health Officials Investigating After Legionnaires' Disease Death In Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Public health officials in Chicago were conducting an investigation, after a resident of a Gold Coast rehabilitation center died from Legionnaires' Disease, a rare bacterial infection.

According to the Chicago Department of Public Health, a woman living at Warren Barr Gold Coast has died, after contracting the waterborne Legionella bacterium, and died from Legionnaires' Disease.

Officials have not yet determined when or where the victim was infected, but officials were trying to determine if the victim visited other medical facilities, to try to track down possible sources of exposure.

A source tells CBS 2 she was at three other medical facilities in the area, before returning to Barr last week then coming down with pneumonia-like symptoms.

The Legionella bacterium is found in water or water systems, especially in warm water, such as hot tubs that have not been properly cleaned and disinfected. A person can become infected by breathing steam or mist from contaminated water.

Legionnaires' Disease is not spread from person to person, and is treatable if caught early enough.

The director of Warren Barr declined a request for an on-camera interview, but in a statement, the center said the person who died had been treated at several other medical facilities.

"While we have no reason to believe the bacterium was contracted at our facility, we are conducting a thorough investigation," the center said.

Warren Barr officials said they were following protocols established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have retained experts to conduct proper texting, and notified state health officials.

"We are pleased that early indications showed no positive readings at our facility," the center said. "Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family. We were very saddened by the news of the resident's passing."

According to the statement, the facility immediately took precautions to protect patients, staff, and visitors after learning the dead patient had Legionalla.

"We are monitoring all residents very closely and will continue to do so while we await the official test results," the center said.

A spokesman for the Chicago Health Department said in a statement, "Legionella can be serious for some individuals, such as the elderly or those with a weakened immune system, but it is treatable. The Chicago Department of Public Health is working closely with the healthcare facility to determine possible sources of exposure and to identify mitigating factors in the case recently identified.

In this case, the individual who contracted Legionella was more susceptible to the illness due to several risk factors, including age and a weakened immune system. No other cases have been reported at this time but we will continue to monitor the situation closely."

There have been a handful of other cases of Legionnaires' Disease in the Chicago area in the past few years. In August 2012, three people died and at least 10 others fell ill in an outbreak traced to the lobby of the J.W. Marriott Hotel downtown. In October 2012, Legionella bacteria turned up at three schools in Batavia, though no cases of the disease were reported. In November 2013, two people contracted Legionnaires' at an L.A. Fitness gym in Naperville.

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