Illinois to replace plumbing at veterans' home amid Legionnaire's crisis

Elias Hubbard
January 13, 2018

Nirav Shah appears on "Chicago Tonight" on January 4, 2018 to discuss the state's opioid epidemic.

"Gov. Bruce Rauner showered and drank the water at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy for the last week during his stay at the facility where 13 people have died of Legionnaires" disease since 2015.

"Not only are they top of their profession in medical care and medical knowledge and expertise as well as maintenance expertise and other types of professional ability, they are a loving, nurturing, extended family for the veterans who live here", said Rauner. Rauner said he's even looking into adding an entirely new building to house all 350 veterans Legionnaires is caused by the Legionella bacteria which is contracted by inhaling water mist.

The governor plan to upgrade the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, 285 miles southwest of Chicago, come after a WBEZ investigation into his administration's handling of the Legionnaires' disease outbreaks in 2015, 2016 and again a year ago.

There were 6,000 cases of Legionnaires' last year in the United States, and there were 5,000 the year before, Posner said.

With criticism mounting after following WBEZ's story about some of the 11 families suing the state for negligence, Rauner took a room at the home January 3. He discussed changes made to keep the home safe, like chemical treatments for the water, flushing pipes regularly, strictly monitoring residents, and speeding up testing for the disease from four days to a few hours. Posner said he agreed with the actions taken by the state agencies and that he thought they'd done "an outstanding job" developing a water program to minimize risk of water being contaminated with the bacteria.

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Kifowit (KIH'-foh-wiht) of Oswego (ahs-WEE'-goh) questioned Dr. Nirav Sha (NEER'-uhv SHA') Tuesday at a legislative hearing about when the department informed the public about the 2015 outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy.

"And let me be crystal clear, I do NOT support closing this facility". A visit or a sit-down conversation on this issue with the staff would show a great deal of support for Quincy and one of its most valuable residences. He says there were about 300 cases in IL a year ago. "I'm one of the most fiscally conservative members [of the legislature]". State lawmakers held a hearing on the Legionnaires' issue Tuesday. Jeffries said the goal was to not "incite hysteria or panic".

Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Erica Jeffries testified that officials waited to notify the public because they needed time "to ensure that before information was released that we knew what we were talking about".

The governor is expected to return Wednesday from a stay at the home that his opponents characterize as a "publicity stunt".

"The veterans home does not end there", Shah said. What I've learned is most recommendations for water remediation to combat legionella suggest thermally heating OR chemically treating OR filtering the water.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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