IL has spent at least $6.4 million on water system improvements to the state veterans home in Quincy since 2015, following three Legionnaires' disease outbreaks in as many years that have left 13 residents dead.
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.
Sam Posner (POHZ'-nur) is associate director for epidemiological science for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
In the face of mounting criticism over his handling of the situation - and fresh off a weeklong stay at the facility - Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday promised additional upgrades, which the Illinois Veterans Affairs department estimates could cost upwards of $30 million.
The governor's political critics, who have called his stay at the veterans home a "stunt", were unimpressed, and pointed out an incongruity in his pledges to both do more while at the same time defending the administration's past response to a problem that's persisted for years. Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Erica Jeffries says installing all new piping at the 130-year-old facility could create separate problems.
"This is an issue especially with Legionella, because of the persistence of Legionella that we have worked with at a number of sites over multiple years investigating cases", Posner said.
He's also criticized the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health's response to the outbreak - and says Dr. Nirav Shah ought to resign.
Republican Sen. Sam McCann of Plainview demanded Shah's resignation for failing to inform Rauner's office until over a weekend, and over a six-day delay in informing the public of the first 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. Thirteen residents have died at Quincy since 2015.
Shah says the important thing in such an emergency is to notify the facility. The public was notified August 27. 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".
Shah added the IDPH website will be corrected because the gestation period is 10 to 12 days.
"Let's get to work and give our veterans the service and care they deserve". Surface water tends to be warmer and more accessible to Legionella bacteria, Rauner said.
"Your best is not good enough, Dr. Shah, it's atrocious", said Democratic Sen.
Gov. Bruce Rauner has previously said his team "is taking every possible action to make sure that our veterans are safe and healthy".
The House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees plan a joint hearing Tuesday in Chicago on the illness that has contributed to the deaths of 13 residents since 2015 and sickened dozens of others. State Senator Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, issued a statement after Rauner called for the replacement of pipes and improved infrastructure at the home.
The CDC declared in a report last week that eliminating the bacteria from the home's water is unlikely.
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