BATAVIA – The source of the Legionnaire’s disease that has sickened 12 residents of a Batavia retirement community and two other people off-site nearby remains uncertain.
However, Batavia City Administrator Laura Newman said that the cause is not the city water supply.
Tests show that chlorine levels in Batavia water are above that required by the Illinois Department of Public Health, meaning the bacteria which causes Legionnaires’ cannot survive, Newman told aldermen at a meeting of the Batavia City Council on Sept. 16.
The Kane County Health Department and the Illinois Department of Public Health are investigating the Legionnaires’ outbreak, which began more than two weeks ago at Covenant Living at the Holmstad.
Mayor Jeff Schielke said employees from the Batavia Water Department visited the Holmstad site.
“We’ve taken it seriously,” the mayor said. “Our water system was never the culprit.”
Newman said officials from the state health department are in daily contact with the city.
The investigation into the source of Legionella bacteria includes a cooling tower at the Holmstad physical plant, Newman said, but the tower has not been confirmed as the source.
In addition to the 12 Holmstad residents who have contracted the disease, two other “community-based” cases have been identified among people living near the sprawling retirement community campus, which is located at the southwest corner of Route 31 and Fabyan Parkway.
Newman said the city has asked the IDPH if there are any precautions residents can take to avoid becoming infected and is awaiting a response.
Legionnaires’ disease is not transmitted person-to-person, Newman said, but rather from water droplets containing the bacteria.
Third Ward Alderman Dan Chanzit, in whose ward the Holmstad is located, asked Newman if it is believed that additional cases of the disease are expected to be diagnosed.
Newman indicated she did not know, but noted that the incubation period for the disease is two weeks.
Legionnaires’ disease is serious lung infection caused by breathing water droplets containing the bacteria, according to the IDPH, and is most commonly associated with buildings using complex water systems, including long-term care facilities like the Holmstad.
Most healthy people do not get the disease after being exposed to the Legionella bacteria, according to the Kane County Health Department.
People with a higher risk of the disease are those aged 50 and older, current and former smokers, persons with a weakened immune system and those with a chronic disease, including asthma.