The Quincy (Illinois) Veterans’ Home, source of a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that sickened 54 residents and employees last year, has been cited as a possible factor in a new case of the deadly illness. Our law firm is currently representing victims of this outbreak, which ultimately claimed 12 lives.
Alerted last Tuesday, April 25th, that a new case of Legionnaires’ disease had been reported in Adams County, the Adams County Health Department notified the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA). In a statement released on Friday, IDHP Administrator Jerrod Welch told media sources that the victim could have contracted LD either at a private residence or at the Veterans Home, where he had been several times before becoming ill; he would not comment upon whether the victim was an employee of the Veterans Home: “We are simply investigating, and based on last year’s events, we feel strongly that it is a good idea for our community to be aware of that situation.” (1)
In a press release, IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D. pointed out that single cases of Legionnaires’ disease are not always associated with outbreaks:
“Cases of legionellosis, which includes Legionnaires’ disease, are not uncommon, with an average of 250 cases reported each year in Illinois … At this time, we do not believe there is an increased risk of Legionnaires’ disease in the Adams County area, nor at the Quincy Veterans’ Home.” (2)
In this same release, IDVA Director Erica Jeffries assured the public that hospital administrators are taking the threat of Legionnaires’ disease very seriously: “While this case is not confirmed to have come from the (Illinois) Veterans Home, we are continuing to implement every necessary precaution to ensure the health and safety of our residents and staff … That is our top priority.” (2)
The Quincy healthcare facility has been undergoing extensive remodeling since the deadly outbreak occurred between July and September last year, launching a $4.8 million water management and mitigation plan that includes a state-of-the-art water treatment facility that controls the proliferation of legionella pneumonia bacteria through both thermal and chemical treatment.
Legionnaires’ Disease at Veterans’ Affairs Healthcare Facilities
The deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that harmed so many at Quincy last year was instrumental in raising public awareness about how often preventable LD cases occur in VA facilities, where – like at Quincy – hospital water systems are often antiquated and poorly maintained. Similar tragic cases have occurred at facilities including VA Pittsburgh and the Waco VA Medical Center. Most recently, a case was reported in late April 2016 as having sickened a resident at VA Medical Center at Chillicothe, Ohio.
Legionnaires’ disease is particularly dangerous when it strikes in a densely-populated medical facility serving immune-compromised patients. The symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease include coughing, shortness of breath, high fever, headaches, and muscle aches. People who are most at risk of contracting this illness include current or former smokers, those over the age of 50, anyone who has a weakened or compromised immune system, and those with a chronic lung disease.