Illinois governor moves into veterans home that has history of Legionnaires' cases

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Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, moved into the Illinois Veterans' Home at Quincy on Wednesday and plans to spend several nights there in support of managers who are in the spotlight after multiple Legionnaires' disease outbreaks have occurred on the campus, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

“He wants to gain a more thorough understanding of the clinical, water-treatment and residential operations of the home,” a spokeswoman for the governor, Rachel Bold, told the media outlet.

The move came a day before federal health officials sent a memo to the state Department of Public Health with recommendations on how to lessen the risk of future outbreaks at the home, which provides domiciliary, intermediate or skilled nursing care to about 600 residents, including some who have dementia.

Five residents at the home and one employee tested positive for Legionnaires' disease in 2017, according to the Illinois Department of Pubic Health. Fifty-four cases were confirmed in 2015, after which the home implemented a comprehensive water management plan, built a new water treatment facility and took other steps to reduce the risk of exposure, the department said.

Five cases were reported in 2016, according to federal health officials who conducted tests at the campus after the various outbreaks. In all, 13 residents have died from Legionnaires' since mid-2015, the Sun-Times said, and 11 related lawsuits have been filed against the state for negligence.

Thursday, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health made recommendations to the state Public Health Department to try to reduce the risk of the disease at the home, but they noted that following the advice may not prevent future outbreaks.

“Since 2015, [Illinois Department of Public Health] and [Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy] staff have committed considerable time, effort and resources to implementing a water management program that has reduced both the number of Legionnaires' disease cases associated with IVHQ and the amount of detectable Legionella in the water systems. How much further our recommended changes will reduce risk is unclear,” the federal officials wrote in their memo. “Every approach to risk reduction has benefits but also has challenges and can lead to unintended consequences. Even with a fully optimized [water management program], cases of Legionnaires' disease are possible in any facility that contains a large, complicated water system and that houses a highly susceptible population.”

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