IL to replace vets' plumbing amid Legionnaires' crisis

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State Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, represents the 47th Illinois Senate District that includes the Quincy Veterans Home.

Illinois lawmakers are demanding Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration deliver a permanent plan of action to control an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy.

Shah and Jeffries defended the administration's response to the crisis dating to August 21, 2015, when Shah learned of a second confirmed case of the pneumonia-like malady caused by bacteria which grow in water systems and cause Legionnaires' when infected water vapor is inhaled.

But Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Erica Jeffries says installing all new piping at the 130-year-old facility could create separate problems.

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

"That six days was a time of deliberation", Jeffries said, adding that though it is the Department of Public Health's responsibility to notify the public, both departments issued a joint response.

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

Keep Quincy home's doors open
Lawmakers seek answers on vets' home Legionnaires' outbreak

Shah said compared to other health care facilities with a similar population of elderly residents, Quincy pneumonia rates are in-line or below what is expected. He told one story about how a resident, Greg, defeated the Governor over and over in Connect 4.

Shah said the important thing in such an emergency is to notify the facility.

The director of the Illinois Department of Public Health says the agency's website has incorrect information about Legionnaires' disease. 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". The governor has defended his administration's handling of the outbreak, and his Twitter account on Tuesday repeated numerous arguments made by Shah and Jeffries during the hearing. "If we're doing all this, I'm sure your question is, "Why do we continue to see cases of Legionnaires' at the Quincy home?' The answer is because of our increased surveillance and protocol changes that have helped us to find more cases at Quincy".

In a statement, Dr. Shah says, "I stand behind IDPH's response at the Veterans' Home in Quincy and the immediate actions we took to protect the health and safety of veterans and staff".

"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 stayed at the veteran's home. He said the IVH has implemented every recommendation from the CDC since 2015 to combat the Legionella bacteria, but he said it has not been enough because there were outbreaks again in 2016 and 2017. Tuesday's hearing called by Democrats gave them a ready-made backdrop to criticize the Republican governor's administration.

Based on the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the staff has tested the water within the facility every two weeks. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, said.

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