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

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

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

Gov. Bruce Rauner emerged Wednesday from a weeklong stay at a military veterans' home beset by a deadly Legionnaires' outbreak and announced the state will replace the plumbing at the sprawling, 130-year-old site.

Senator Sam McCann, a Republican from Plainview, says the governor's response should have come long ago.

In Illinois, there were about 300 cases a year ago, said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

A bipartisan bill that could speed construction of one or more new buildings at the Illinois Veterans Home is being sponsored in the General Assembly.

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".

Sitting alongside Shah and Jeffries during the almost four-hour hearing was Sam Posner, associate director for epidemiological science for the CDC.

Frese said after "constantly reading" on the matter, he found Quincy had 92 cases of pneumonia from January through November of 2017, five or six which were cause by Legionella.

Jeffries said that over the course of several months after residents and their families were notified of the outbreak, just six residents chose to leave the home and "none of them, save one, maybe, made a decision to leave the home because of the Legionnaires' incident". He told one story about how a resident, Greg, defeated the Governor over and over in Connect 4. In water pipes, legionella bacteria can grow on what's called biofilm that accumulates in all water pipes. Shah learned of an outbreak at Quincy on August 21, 2015.

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

The director of the Illinois Department of Public Health says the agency's website has incorrect information about Legionnaires' disease.

Shah says the important thing in such an emergency is to notify the facility. "On Aug. 27, we were sure". 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".

Tom Cullerton, chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, helped conduct the joint hearing with the House Veterans Committee on Tuesday in Chicago. Surface water tends to be warmer and more accessible to Legionella bacteria, Rauner said.

"The governor and his administration need to quickly outline their capital plan to begin action and implement a strong strategy to provide our veterans the best possible care and service".

"The actions that we took were quick, coordinated and decisive, and I stand by them because they worked", Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah said during a hearing in Chicago.

The roughly a dozen Quincy residents (veterans and their spouses) surrounding the governor during his press conference (his first since December 20) frequently applauded; he started the event complimenting "George" on his shirt, saying hello to "Louise" and warning the audience not to play "Henry" in the game "Connect Four". The hearing gets underway at 10 a.m. Tuesday. A Centers for Disease control report released January 4 says the risk of Legionnaires' can not be "eliminated".