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UAW Senior Citizens Center in Pekin fighting Legionnaire’s; one person dead

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PEKIN (HOI) - Two people have contracted Legionnaire's Disease at the UAW Senior Citizens Center in Pekin. One of those individuals died, while the other was just released from the hospital, said Manager Donald Bly.

Water samples at the building that houses around 235 residents was tested by the IDPH and identified legionella bacteria 'extensively in locations throughout the building's water system.' That's according to a letter sent to residents by Manager Donald Bly.

The Centers for Disease Control explains Legionnaire's Disease as a type of severe pneumonia. It's caused by "breathing in small droplets of water that contain Legionella." The CDC explains most healthy people do not get sick after breathing in Legionella, however, being 50 years or older increases the chances of getting sick.

Legionnaire's Disease is also more widely seen in people who are a current or former smoker, have lung disease, or a weakened immune system. The symptoms of Legionnaire's are cough, muscle aches, fever, shortness of breath, and headache.

While it is not spread from person to person, and only acquired through breathing in water droplets, Bly has placed restrictions on water use throughout the 215 unit building.

Bly said for about two weeks now residents have been asked not to take showers, and to limit the stream of their faucets to "the size of a pencil." This helps keep the water from steaming and becoming airborne. They are also asked to use bottled water for CPAP machines, personal humidifiers, nebulizers, and to avoid the use of kitchen sprayers.

"I've ordered shower heads that has built in filters for each one of the units. That will allow them to get back to taking a shower. […] But that's just putting a band-aid on a problem. We've still got to put in a filtration system," explained Bly.

Bly said they are working directly with the Illinois Department of Public Health to navigate the problem and keep an outbreak from happening. He said even with replacing shower heads with filters, they only last 30 days. And they come with a price tag of about $50,000 for the whole building.

As for a permanent fix, Bly said they need a filtration system for the water coming into the building. Something he says they have engineers working on right now, but could take up to 60 days to be operative.

Kyle Beachy

Kyle Beachy is a Multimedia Journalist for 25 News and Heart of Illinois. Born and raised in Kokomo, Indiana, he attended Indiana Wesleyan University where he studied Education and played baseball. He comes to us from Columbus, Ohio where he received a Master’s Degree from The Ohio State University.

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