Legionnaires’ disease has been found in a fitness center hot tub in suburban Chicago, but health officials went weeks before letting the public know about the outbreak.
Two men became sick last month after visiting the LA Fitness in Naperville. Health officials then took a few weeks to determine the source of their illness and test the hot tub.
On Thursday DuPage County public health officials said that a test of the hot tub uncovered the bacterium responsible for Legionnaires’ disease.
The case caused a bit of controversy around Chicago. The DuPage County Health Department confirmed on November 8 that the hot tub contained Legionnaires’ disease but chose not to make those findings public. Only after news agencies found out and began reporting of the outbreak this week did the department confirm that the disease had been found.
“It’s not health department policy (to automatically issue public notices),” spokesman Jason Gerwig said on Thursday. “It’s something we’ll probably look at moving forward.”
Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal bacteria that infects the respiratory system. Though it can be caused by a number of different bacterium, the disease tends to thrive in temperatures between 25 and 45 °C (77 and 113 °F), with an ideal temperature of 35 °C (95 °F) — making a fitness center hot tub the prime location. It has also been found in tainted shower water or air conditioning systems.
The disease is not transmitted from person to person, but is contracted by inhaling aerosolized water that is contaminated with the bacteria.
Gerwig credited the ownership at LA Fitness for acting quickly once Legionnaires’ disease was detected.
“The important thing is that people know we haven’t seen increased numbers,” Gerwig said. “That’s a testament to getting in there early and taking action. Our first concern was the health of the people at LA Fitness.”
The hot tub is now closed for cleaning, while the LA Fitness itself remains open.
The two men infected with Legionnaires’ disease are listed in stable condition and expected to make a full recovery.