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UAW Center’s 3rd Legionnaires’ Case Is County’s 8th This Year

Francis Chandler/CDC via AP
This 1978 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Legionella pneumophila bacteria responsible for causing the pneumonic disease Legionnaires' disease.

UPDATED 7:15 p.m. | Tazewell County remains at an alert level for Legionnaires’ Disease with the latest case confirmed earlier this week.

A third resident of the UAW Senior Citizens Center in Pekin recently contracted the disease, following the death of a man in his 70s in August and the recovery of a woman who had been hospitalized last month.

“The Illinois Department of Public Health is working with the building management to mitigate the water issues in the building,” said Tazewell County Health Department communications manager Sara Sparkman, “and to update their water management plan to make sure that they’re taking care of the issue with legionella – the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease.”

Sparkman said none of the other five cases are related to the UAW outbreak or connected to each other. She said the individuals came from private dwellings, and that many of those types of cases come from home construction projects or leaking air conditioning systems.

“A lot of times, unfortunately, when someone is doing a home renovation, if they haven't used their water in the bathroom for a while, that water is sitting and that's when the legionella can get into the water system,” Sparkman explained.

“So we do ask people who haven't used their water for a while to flush that water system out if they've done renovations or if they haven't used water for a while, and make sure they run their water to get that bacteria out of the system.”

Sparkman said the health department has worked with the individual homeowners to mitigate the situation.

The TCHD issued the public health alert for Legionnaires’ Disease on Sept. 10. Symptoms of the disease include loss of appetite, muscle pain, headache, fever, shortness of breath, cough, and diarrhea.

“Unfortunately, the symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease present very similar to COVID-19,” said Sparkman. “So we are asking anyone who is experiencing symptoms to make sure they're talking to their health care provider.”

On Thursday afternoon, State Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) announced he sent a letter to IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike urging an investigation into the UAW outbreak.

“People at the UAW center are now living with the threat of two infectious diseases circulating in their home,” Koehler said in his news release. “This matter could spiral out of control quickly, and coupled with COVID-19 infection, it would be a disaster for the folks residing at this facility.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.