Vets' home hearing on Legionnaires' nearly underway

An aerial view from the WGEM News Drone of the Illinois Veterans Home grounds in Quincy

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

Gov. Bruce Rauner emerged from a six-day stay at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, where several residents died of Legionnaires' disease.

"Our actions were quick, they were coordinated and they were decisive", Shah said, explaining that the procedures his team put into place at the start of the outbreak in August 2015 ultimately kept Quincy veterans and staff safe.

"I've stayed every night here, I've eaten every meal here except for Saturday lunch and Sunday lunch", said Rauner.

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.

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 past year.

The calls are in response to the deaths of 12 IVH residents from Legionnaire's disease in 2015 and one more in 2017. Posner said he's seen cases of Legionella being present in water systems for up to 20 years.

Finally, Rauner said the Quincy hospital has agreed to return results on Legionnaires' tests within hours, instead of the days the Illinois Department of Public Health has had to wait previously.

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Based on the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the staff has tested the water within the facility every two weeks.

Jeffries, an Army veteran, says a press release went out days after they had their "facts straight". 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.

In Oswego, Democratic State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit recently visited the veteran's home.

Shah says that moving vulnerable, elderly populations can cause "transfer trauma"-one of the reasons that residents were not promptly moved out of the Quincy home". He says there were about 300 cases in IL previous year.

Veterans' Affairs Director Erica Jeffries says "We continue to find more cases because we are looking for more cases". Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park. On Tuesday, state lawmakers held a hearing where they questioned directors of both the public health and veterans affairs departments about the outbreak, saying that more needs to be done.

"It is increased surveillance", Jeffries said.

Jeffries says the veterans department has considered new pipes, which would cost an estimated $25 million to $30 million, but she says that too comes with risks, given that excavating plumbing can kick up dirt were legionella bacteria also exists.

The Quincy Veterans' Home opened in 1886, making it the flagship of our state's veterans' facilities.The home is beloved in the region, with a dedicated volunteer community group known as the "Friends of the Quincy Veterans' Home" that acts as the eyes and ears of the home to ensure our veterans there are always receiving the care they deserve. What I've learned is most recommendations for water remediation to combat legionella suggest thermally heating OR chemically treating OR filtering the water.

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