In a letter sent out to parents of Oak Park and River Forest High School students on Friday afternoon, Superintendent Dr. Steven Isoye alerted parents that Legionella bacteria—responsible for Legionnaires' disease—was found in the boys and girls locker room recently.
The bacterium was found during a voluntary program to test water throughout the building. School officials were told Friday morning of the bacteria's presence in a showerhead in the freshmen boy's and girl's locker rooms. According to Isoye, the showers have been closed until the school can consult with experts about removing the bacteria.
In rare circumstances, the letter states, legionella bacteria can cause the respiratory illness, Legionnaire's disease. It can result as a high fever and pneumonia. It was named after an outbreak occurred at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia in 1976.
It was in the news recently when eight cases and two deaths were linked to the JW Marriott Chicago hotel in downtown Chicago in August this year.
In the letter, Isoye told parents there is no need for concern.
"After consulting with both the Oak Park Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Public Health, we were assured that Legionella commonly is found in water and water fixtures, and that it is safe for students to continue using other showers, which were not found to contain the bacteria," he wrote.
No cases of Legionnaire's disease have been reported among students at the school.
School officials will be disinfecting and sanitizing the affected showers this week and the showers will remain closed for the next few weeks as the school awaits tests.
Letter to Parents:
Dear OPRF High School Parents/Guardians,
Earlier this school year, OPRFHS began a voluntary, proactive program of water-quality testing throughout the building. Although this testing is not required by law, nor undertaken in response to reported concerns, we believe it is an important part of what we do to maintain a healthful school environment.
This morning we were notified that traces of Legionella bacteria were found in a shower head in both the freshman boys' and freshman girls' locker rooms. We immediately isolated and closed these showers. As a precautionary measure, we also closed the other showers as well, until we could thoroughly consult with experts about the appropriate next steps.
In very rare circumstances Legionella may cause Legionnaires' disease, a respiratory illness. We have had no reported cases of Legionnaires' disease among our students or staff.
After consulting with both the Oak Park Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Public Health, we were assured that Legionella commonly is found in water and water fixtures, and that it is safe for students to continue using other showers, which were not found to contain the bacteria.
We are working with our water-technology consultant to thoroughly disinfect and sanitize the affected showers. Following this remediation process, they will remain closed through next week as we await test results. Physical Education activities will be adjusted accordingly. We also will be sure to let you know when the showers will be reopened.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact Communications Director Karin Sullivan, Principal Nate Rouse, or me.
Dr. Steven Isoye