Health officials from the Cook County jail announced that a prison inmate had been infected with the Legionnaires’ disease, but it seems that he is the only one until now as no other cases have been reported.
The inmate was serving a sentence since fall 2015 after he had been found guilty of residential burglary. According to Sheriff Tom Dart, the detainee was tested positive for the Legionnaires’ disease after had been hospitalized on July 6th for pneumonia-like symptoms.
No other inmates or his cellmate were found experiencing the same symptoms. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain that Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia caused by bacteria that attack the lungs.
The disease is not contagious after person-to-person contact, but it can be picked up from the air.
People who get sick usually inhale vapor or mist originating from contaminated sources of water such as cooling systems, hot tubs, and other water systems from large buildings including hotels and hospitals.
Doctors underline that most healthy people usually do not get infected with the bacteria even if they are exposed to it.
But the disease can affect people with weak immune systems, smokers, and older adults whose lungs are no longer capable of dealing with these bacteria, known as legionella.
The Cook County Health and Hospital Systems together with the Cook County Department of Facilities Management have joined their efforts to identify the source of the waterborne bacteria.
Based on the CDC statistics, less than 5 percent of the persons who are exposed to the Legionnaires’ bacteria eventually develop the pneumonia-like symptoms.
The infected inmate is currently receiving medical assistance at Stroger Hospital, and doctors reported that he is in a much better condition than before.
His cellmate and all detainees from the contaminated unit were moved to another area of the jail, and they will stay there until health officials establish which is the source of the waterborne bacteria.
According to Cara Smith, sheriff’s spokeswoman, even the staff working in the contaminated division is strongly recommended to consult a doctor to make sure that no one picked up the bacteria from the air.
Smith stressed that officials would double their efforts to identify the source of legionella as soon as possible so that things can go back to normal.
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