Legionella scare leads to evacuation of 3 Chicago area schools

A Chicago area middle school, high school and building that houses a high school program were all evacuated after an annual air quality test found higher-than-normal levels of Legionella bacteria in the buildings' cooling towers, NBC Chicago reports.

School District U-46 officials posted a statement regarding the matter on the district's website, explaining that the test results showed that the three buildings had levels of Legionella bacteria that were higher than what is considered "normal of safe" by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is 1,000 colony-forming units per milliliter. Legionella can cause Legionnaires' disease.

"The protocol for responding to an above-average bacteria level is to sanitize and disinfect the cooling systems, a process we implemented immediately Wednesday, per OSHA standards," read the statement. "We immediately followed our disinfection protocol for cooling tower systems. We are repeating this protocol tomorrow, Thursday, as an additional precautionary step."

Because the district will be completing the cleaning process on Thursday, all three schools — Eastview Middle School, Larkin High School and the Educational Services Center, which houses Gifford Street middle and high schools and the Central Schools Program — will remain closed.

School District U-46 CEO Tony Sanders told NBC Chicago that "no students or staff have reported any illness that would be considered Legionnaires," and the evacuation was just to "err on the side of safety."

Legionella is the same bacteria that has recently caused outbreaks in Illinois and New York City.



More articles on Legionnaires' disease:
How many more have to die before regulators take action on Legionnaires' disease?
Death toll rises in Illinois Legionnaires' disease outbreak
NYC Legionnaires' disease outbreak ends after sickening hundreds

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