Rauner officials defend handling of Legionnaires' outbreak at Quincy veterans home

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

Governor Bruce Rauner wrapped up a week-long stay at the Illinois Veterans Home (IVH) in Quincy Wednesday morning with a news conference.

"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.

"I reject the idea that you had to choose between improving the care and taking initial remedial measures and issuing a press release", said Rep. Michael Halpin, D-Rock Island.

Legionella is a naturally occurring water-borne bacteria that becomes a health hazard, commonly called Legionnaires' disease, when people breathe in small droplets of contaminated water.

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 disease claimed 13 lives at the veterans home since August 2015.

Posner says there were 6,000 cases of Legionnaires' nationally previous year.

Shah says it took a mere 27 minutes from when the IDPH first learned in 2015 of a second case of Legionnaires' to notify the Quincy home and the local health department. It doesn't spread from person to person; rather, it is born and spread through mist or water. She said there are multiple tests per day being done on the water system at Quincy in the aftermath of the outbreak.

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".

The governor opposes closing the home; McCann says he thinks the state should build a new facility in the same location. In 2017, five residents were sickened by the disease and one died.

"If this is how the facility is at 100 years how do we expect it to last for another hundred?" He said he has secured a funding commitment from lawmakers, but will be looking to federal partners and philanthropists to contribute.

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

Members of the Illinois House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee will meet to figure out who knew what and what can be done about the Legionnaires' outbreak at the Vets' Home.

"It is increased surveillance", Jeffries said.

Erica Jeffries, director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, stressed that crews have overhauled the facility's water handling system and can now test the water more quickly - specifically for legionella bacteria.

Rauner also said he will assemble a group of experts to determine whether a state-of-the-art dorm should be built and whether a safer groundwater source is available for the home.



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