Although the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease – an illness blamed for the deaths of three Loop hotel guests this summer – was found Thursday in three far west suburban Batavia schools, district officials assured levels were low and students were not at risk.
Batavia District 101 officials notified parents Thursday evening, alerting them to their findings of traces of Legionella bacteria.
After conducting water quality tests Thursday morning, workers found the bacteria on bathroom faucets at Alice Gustafson and Hoover-Wood elementary schools, and on a shower head in a Batavia High School locker room, said Superintendent Jack Barshinger.
The affected areas were closed and district officials consulted with Kane County and state health departments, Barshinger said.
After those discussions, a plan was put in place to keep the areas closed Friday and do a thorough cleaning of all school buildings over the three-day Columbus Day weekend, he said.
"The Illinois (Department of Public Health) told us to take our time and do a quality job, and there wasn't any immediate danger," he said.
Legionella bacteria, which thrives in areas with warm water, can cause Legionnaires' disease – a severe form a pneumonia. The disease was blamed for the death of three people who stayed at the JW Marriott in the Loop last summer, according to Chicago officials.
Given the recent outbreak in the area, Batavia school officials were especially concerned, Barshinger said.
No students, nor anyone in the county, has reported Legionnaires' symptoms to district or county health department officials, he said.
Barshinger also said the district reviewed its daily health record, which records any flu-like symptoms reported by students, comparing it to last year. There were fewer reports this year, he said.
"We had a much larger crisis plan planned until the health department told us (the levels of bacteria found) were not far outside the norm," he said. "But we do need to do a 'Level 1' cleaning."
Barshinger also noted health officials confirmed water in the schools is safe to drink because the bacteria is only a problem if it becomes airborne.
Parents with questions or concerns were directed to call their school nurse.