Rockford's Independent Newspaper

2 more Legionnaires’ disease cases found at veterans home

QUINCY — Two more confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease were found among residents of a veterans home in western Illinois where the illness has been linked to the deaths of 13 people since 2015, health officials said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said in a Monday evening news release that both residents of the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy are doing well. Engineering staff removed faucets from the residents’ rooms, collected water samples and took other steps to ensure the water is safe, officials said. The disease is a severe form of pneumonia caused by bacteria in water vapor that’s inhaled.

The disease has contributed to the deaths of 13 facility residents since 2015 and sickened dozens more. Gov. Bruce Rauner spent a week at the facility in January, saying afterward that the state would replace the plumbing at the sprawling, 130-year-old site. He 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.

A lawsuit was filed against the state by 11 families of stricken veterans.

The state health department is working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Adams County Health Department to try to identify the source of the bacteria.

State Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, has organized joint House-Senate hearings in recent months to examine the state’s response to the disease. On Tuesday, Cullerton and state Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, said they were upset with the news of two more cases at the veterans home and criticized the Rauner administration’s response.

“Our nation’s heroes need a solution now,” Cullerton said.

Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold said Tuesday that the governor engineering staff worked quickly to protect residents and staff.

“Our goal must be to put politics aside and work together to keep our veterans safe and healthy,” she said.

–Associated Press

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