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McHenry Villa water tests positive for Legionella bacteria: IDPH

Water samples at McHenry Villa, 3516 Waukegan Road, tested positive for Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease, according to a study conducted by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Water samples at McHenry Villa, 3516 Waukegan Road, tested positive for Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease, according to a study conducted by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

An Illinois Department of Public Health investigation revealed the presence of Legionella bacteria in the plumbing system of McHenry Villa independent senior living community.

The investigation started after three residents of McHenry Villa, 3516 Waukegan Road, were confirmed earlier this month to have Legionnaires’ disease, according to a news release from the IDPH. The department has sent a notice of violation to McHenry Villa regarding the “structural issues” with its plumbing system.

Former McHenry Mayor Donald Doherty, who lived at McHenry Villa, died last week. Although it is unclear whether it was the cause of his death, Doherty’s son, Jay, said his father was one of the residents who contracted Legionnaires’ disease. The status of the other two residents who had the disease was not clear.

“Our concern is the health and safety of the McHenry Villa residents,” IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah said. “Because this community is similar to an independently operated apartment complex, implementation of water use restrictions is not feasible and correction of the violations may not be possible while residents are occupying the building.”

IDPH had said the three patients all had outside exposure and two of the three may have been exposed at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital, something the hospital denies.

In October, the Johnsburg Walmart also was named as a possible source of exposure to Legionnaires’ disease. It was not clear Friday if the cases were related.

In a letter to residents dated Thursday, McHenry Villa officials said they are committed to fully complying with IDPH’s directives and guidance and will inform residents and staff of the planned response.

McHenry Villa Executive Director Noreen Zaio said after consulting with IDPH, McHenry County and McHenry Villa’s water quality management company, it was determined that evacuation of residents was not necessary.

“We take this situation very seriously,” Zaio said. “Upon learning of the test results, McHenry Villa took immediate action and is implementing a remediation plan as directed by the state.”

IDPH public information officer Melaney Arnold said the recommendations for such a plan may include
hiring a consultant, adding or replacing filters on sink faucets and fixtures and reviewing cooling tower operations.

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious lung infection that people can get by breathing in small droplets of water containing Legionella bacteria, according to the IDPH.

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