3 NW suburban schools evacuated due to Legionella

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FOX 32's Natalie Bomke contributed to this report.

ELGIN, Ill. (FOX 32 News) - Three northwest suburban schools were evacuated after high levels of Legionella bacteria was found on school facilities.

"It was the beginning of 4th period and the Principal came on the intercom and he said there was an environmental issue," said Larkin High School freshman Jeremiah Cortes.

An annual air quality test of the school's cooling towers found "higher than normal" levels of Legionella bacteria at Eastview Middle, Larkin High, and at the Central Office/Gifford Street High school programs, School District U-46 posted on their Facebook page Wednesday morning.

"On an annual basis we test our water cooling systems that we have at 19 of our schools, to test them for different kinds of bacteria. We got results back this morning that three of our schools had higher than normal level of legionnaires bacteria in them," CEO of District U-46 Tony Sanders said.

The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reports 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.

“While risk of exposure to the bacteria was low, we decided, in consultation with the Kane County Health Department, to evacuate staff and students to safe locations as a precaution,” the school district said.

All 19 towers in the area are being properly cleaned and sanitized to remove bacteria.

Inger Balderas' son was supposed to attend Gifford starting last week.

"It's scary, it's very scary especially when you know it's like airborne, so that means not only in the school but the neighborhood, I don't know how far it can travel and stuff," said Balderas.

Sanders said a decision would be made later Wednesday on whether the schools will remain closed

According to the post, students were moved to the following locations for dismissal: 

  • Eastview students are being transported to Bartlett High until parents can pick them up.
  • Gifford Street High School and Central Schools program students are moving to Elgin High School until we can get those students home.
  • Larkin students will be dismissed to go home if they walk, or will wait outside until buses arrive. Special needs students will be transported.
  • ESC/Central Office staff were asked to go to either Bartlett High or Elgin High to assist with students.

The bacteria was found as western Illinois deals with a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that has killed 13 people.

Legionella bacteria can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a severe, sometimes lethal form of pneumonia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the symptoms are like flu or pneumonia and begin 2 to 10 days after being exposed. But people should watch for symptoms up to 2 weeks after exposure.

It can be treated with antibiotics.