Officials in the Illinois state government said Thursday that eight residents of the Illinois Veterans’ Home – Quincy have tested positive for the bacterium that causes Legionnaires’ disease, while testing on other residents are currently pending. There have been no known deaths related to this outbreak.
The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) report working closely with the Adams County Health Department to identify and mitigate possible sources of the Legionella bacteria.
“Our Quincy Home staff and the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) leadership are taking this situation seriously, as we do with any other situation facing our fellow veterans and residents,” said Erica L. Jeffries, Director, IDVA. “The health, safety, and high quality of life for the residents remains our highest priority. We will work with local, regional, and state partners to find and eliminate any potential source locations causing these illnesses, and work with residents, families, and staff to ensure we meet their needs.”
“Legionnaires’ disease can be a dangerous illness, especially in older adults who have weaker immune systems,” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D. “While there can be numerous causes of respiratory illness, we will continue to work with our public health partners and local healthcare providers to quickly identify residents who may have Legionnaires’ disease and get them treatment as soon as possible.”
“We are grateful to all the agencies who are working with us at the Home,” said Cathy Houston, Director of Nursing at IVH-Q. “Our approach, along with providing residents, families, and the Homes staff with education and better hygienic practices, is helping to reduce the spread of respiratory illness in general. We are employing established infectious disease control protocols, and operating to help safeguard our residents.”
One of the larger and older veterans homes in the country, the Illinois Veterans’ Home – Quincy, often been labeled as “the city within the city”, offers all levels of health care ranging from domiciliary to skilled nursing care and two Alzheimer’s units. Members are assigned by medical staff to the unit that best fits their needed level of care. Four full-time physicians and over 330 RNs, LPNs, and VNACs provide 24-hour a day, 7-days a week medical coverage. Besides the extensive medical department, the Home is staffed with social services, activities, accounting, dietary, laundry, housekeeping, business office, security, and maintenance departments.
In addition, the home is equipped with its own post office, bank, assembly hall, guest house, mini post exchange, chapel, cemetery, lake, animal park, museum, and several military-related historical sites. The Home also has its own publication and television station.
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by the bacteria Legionella. Additional symptoms include: headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear two to 10 days after significant exposure to Legionella bacteria. Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks, cooling towers, and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.
Legionnaires’ disease cannot be spread from person to person. Groups at high risk for Legionnaire’s disease include people who are middle-aged or older – especially cigarette smokers – people with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems and people who take medicines that weaken their immune systems (immunosuppressive drugs).
Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today