Two Cases of Legionnaires’ Disease Linked to Public Gym in Illinois


Legionnaires’ disease is a severe infection and fatal in 10% of cases.

Legionella pneumophila bacterium, the causative agent of Legionnaire's disease, 3D illustration    (Adobe Stock 280401716 by Dr_Microbe)

Legionella pneumophila bacterium, the causative agent of Legionnaire's disease, 3D illustration

(Adobe Stock 280401716 by Dr_Microbe)

According to public health officials, 2 cases of Legionnaires' disease have been traced back to an L.A. Fitness facility in Niles, Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) began investigating the gym on May 5. That same day, they announced that L.A. Fitness closed its pool, spa, showers, and steam room.

On Tuesday, May 16, 2023, testing by the county and state confirmed that legionella pneumophila S2-14, a gram-negative bacterium that causes legionellosis, including a pneumonia-type illness called Legionnaires’ disease, was detected in samples collected from the facility’s hot tub. It may be weeks before affected areas can be reopened to members because they will remain closed until disinfecting is completed and testing confirms that legionella is no longer detected, IDPH said.

Legionnaires' disease can be contracted by breathing in small droplets of water containing the bacteria, which can be found in various public areas, including health care facilities. Although uncommon, it is possible to get the disease by aspirating drinking water or soil that has been contaminated with Legionella.

Those individuals contracting Legionnaires’ disease often need to be hospitalized, which is fatal in 10% of cases. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), around 6,000 cases are reported in the United States annually.

"Managing Legionella and preventing worker exposures and Legionellosis cases depend on implementing an effective water management program," according to the OSHA website. "These programs focus on describing water systems and their components, identifying areas where Legionella could grow, deciding where control measures are needed and how to monitor them, planning response actions when control measures fail, and monitoring and documenting water management activities."

Legionella exposure has the potential to lead to pneumonia, which can be a serious and potentially fatal condition. It can be life-threatening for those who are immunocompromised. It's crucial to take necessary precautions to avoid any potential exposure.

The CDC explains how facilities with hot tub(s) ensure that the hot tubs are safe after a Legionnaires' disease outbreak. “It is important to take samples for laboratory testing before disinfecting the hot tub. However, the hot tub should be turned off immediately to prevent more people from getting sick. CDC has a video that walks through the process of collecting water samples from hot tubs for environmental testing. Detailed instructions for disinfecting hot tubs are available on the fact sheet Disinfection of Hot Tubs that Contain Legionella pdf icon[2 pages].”

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