Legionnaires’ disease still active in Illinois veterans home

Jonathan Kaupanger
February 21, 2018 - 12:23 pm

Photo by Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/MCT/Sipa USA

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A fourth case of Legionnaires’ disease has just been confirmed since February 13th, at the Quincy state veterans home in Illinois. As of now, 13 veterans have died from the bacteria since 2015.

This news comes just hours after the state democratic senators held a hearing about the outbreaks. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration did not attend the meeting. The main reason for the quickly organized hearing was a report from Friday, that detailed water treatment options and plumbing updates the veterans’ home would need.

No one from the state Veterans’ Affairs, Public Health Department or Capital Development board attended the meeting. 

The administration has stated that $6 million has already been spent for improvements.  A new filtration method is being used as well as treating the water with both heat and chemicals. The 132-year-old veteran’s home has been given several recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a way to keep residents safe from the bacteria. 

“How much further our recommended changes will reduce risk is unclear,” said the CDC in a report about the home. The report goes on to state that the Legionella bacteria will probably continue to live in the water and that none of the recommended safeguards will totally protect the home’s 400 residents.

The first Legionnaires’ outbreak at the home happened in 2015. 35 residents, six staff and five community members came down with the illness. The next year, five other cases were identified and another six cases were reported in 2017. The 13th death, a Korean War veteran, was reported in October. 

The latest four veterans who contracted the disease are said to be comfortable and recovering. Oddly enough, one of the new cases was a veteran who was Rauner’s guest at the Jan. 31, State of the State address. Estimates to fix the problem range wildly, from $6 million up to $500 million.