Chicago – Three schools in the town of Elgin, Chicago, were evacuated Wednesday morning after the school cooling towers were evaluated and found to have higher-than-normal levels of Legionella bacteria.
District U-46 CEO, Tony Sanders, said at a news briefing that none of the approximately 3,000 students evacuated from Eastview Middle School and Larkin and Gifford high schools in Elgin have reported becoming ill. “We have absolutely no evidence that our students have been exposed to anything harmful,” said Sanders.
Larkin High School had 940 parts per million of Legionella in its cooling tower; Eastview Middle School and the district office had more than 1,000 parts per million. “According to the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) website, a thousand or more parts per million was cause for taking urgent action. So that’s what we did,” Sanders said.
The same day the schools were evacuated, the cooling towers were sanitized and disinfected, since, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bacterium is transmitted through water when humans breathe in a vapor or mist containing the bacteria.
“The opportunity for that (the bacteria) to vaporize and get into the air where a student of staff member could breathe it is very slim,” Sanders added.
Officials expect to reopen the school this Friday after the cleaning process is repeated. In order to prevent taking the same actions, they will keep the bacterial content at low levels by putting stronger disinfectants in the cooling towers’ water.
The district is the largest one in Illinois, having five high schools, eight middle schools and forty elementary schools.
Legionnaires is a disease caused by Legionella bacteria, which is a severe form of bacterial pneumonia. It can include symptoms like cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches and headaches for 2 to 10 days. The Legionnaires disease is not spread from person to person and there are no vaccines that can prevent it.
Source: ABC 7 Chicago