Lawmakers Demand Permanent Legionnaires' Disease Plan for Quincy

Frese concerned about follow-up on Legionnaires at Quincy veterans home     by Angela Underwood |  Jan 10 2018

Frese concerned about follow-up on Legionnaires at Quincy veterans home by Angela Underwood | Jan 10 2018

Legionnaires' disease is a big problem at the Quincy veterans home but it is not a problem right now at the La Salle veterans home.

Governor Bruce Rauner is creating a committee to recommend how to fight Legionnaires' disease at a state-run veterans' home in Quincy.

The calls are in response to the deaths of 12 IVH residents from Legionnaire's disease in 2015 and one more in 2017.

According to the CDC, people can contract Legionnaire's disease if they breathe in small droplets of water containing the bacteria legionella, which is found naturally in freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams.

Frese then asked CDC Associate Director for Epidemiological Science Sam Posner about Epi-Aid follow-up that occurred in Quincy after the outbreak.

"Eradication of biofilm is virtually impossible", Posner said of the substance Legionnaires' bacteria forms, most often in water pipes.

He's also criticized the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health's response to the outbreak - and says Dr. Nirav Shah ought to resign.

Despite defending their handling of the 2015 outbreak, when asked by a lawmaker if they would promise to "immediately inform the public" if a similar situation happened again, both Shah and Jeffries said they would.

Keep Quincy home's doors open

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report with recommendations for minimizing the risk of new cases at the 132-year-old home but warned that the possibility of future cases "cannot be eliminated".

Thirteen residents at the Quincy home have died from Legionnaires' disease since 2015.

Rauner also praised staff members for their commitment to the veterans.

Shah said the important thing in such an emergency is to notify the facility. Kifowit thought the public should have been told earlier in August 2015 based on IDPH website information that Legionnaires' has a gestation period of three to five days. He said Quincy home staff were told within 27 minutes of learning about the outbreak and they were ordered to restrict water usage that "turned the tide on the epidemic".

Veterans' Affairs Director Erica Jeffries says "We continue to find more cases because we are looking for more cases".

State officials, though, did not notify the public or the families of residents who weren't experiencing symptoms of the disease until six days later.

Democratic Sen. Tom Cullerton of Villa Park is chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Back in 2015, I was very impressed and grateful to see the governor's office and the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs take swift action in locating the sites and cause of the legionella, and sign with a leading water treatment manager to complete improvements as quickly as possible so the home may return to normal operations with minimal disruption. He said Wednesday he ate all but two weekend lunches at the facility that's home to more than 300 mostly skilled-nursing residents, and joked with one resident present about how he repeatedly "crushed" Rauner at the board game Connect 4.

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