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Legionnaires' disease cluster linked to cooling tower at church in Burbank

Legionnaires' cases linked to Burbank church
Legionnaires' cases linked to Burbank church 00:23

BURBANK, Ill. (CBS) -- A cluster of Legionnaire's disease cases has been linked to a church in southwest suburban Burbank.

The Illinois Department of Public Health and the Stickney Public Health District are investigating the Legionnaires' cases, which had onset dates between June and August.

The investigation has found at least four Legionnaires' cases have been linked to the St. Albert the Great Church in Burbank. The IDPH went to the church and collected samples, finding Legionella bacteria in the cooling tower.

The church is fully cooperating with efforts to remediate the cooling tower, and is also notifying congregants. The cooling tower will be shut down until Legionella is no longer being detected.

"As the epidemiological and environmental investigation of this Legionnaires' disease cluster continues, it is important to release this information to ensure that anyone with risk factors who feels symptoms is aware and seeks evaluation and treatment," IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said in a news release. "Legionnaires' disease usually begins with a high fever (102 degrees F to 105 degrees F), chills, muscle aches, cough and shortness of breath, and symptoms usually develop up to two weeks after exposure."

Legionnaires' disease is a type of severe pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. It is treatable with antibiotics. Most people who get sick make a full recovery. However, about one out of 10 people who get Legionnaires' disease will die from the infection.

Most healthy people do not get Legionnaires' disease after being exposed to Legionella bacteria. People at increased risk of getting sick include:

  • People ages 50 years or older
  • Current or former smokers
  • People with a chronic lung disease
  • People with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system
  • People with cancer
  • People with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure

Legionella bacteria grow in areas of warm water. In order to be infected with the bacteria, a person must breathe in a mist or vapor that contains the bacteria. There is no evidence that the Legionella bacteria are spread from person-to-person.

A Legionnaires' outbreak killed a dozen residents at a downstate veterans' home in 2015.

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