In the ever-growing Legionnaires’ disease outbreak affecting residents at the Illinois Veterans’ Home-Quincy, Illinois health officials today put the case count at 39, up ten from yesterday.

Legionella pneumophila bacteria/CDC
Legionella pneumophila bacteria/CDC

In addition, the fatality count is now at seven, all of whom had underlying medical conditions. Testing on other residents are still pending.

“While saddened by the loss of our residents, having been at the Home and talking with the staff and our residents, I am impressed with their resilience and spirit,” said Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) Director Erica Jeffries.  “We remain vigilant in monitoring our residents and we continue to follow the guidance of our interagency partners to implement remediation efforts across our Home.  The safety and quality of care for our residents and staff are our primary concerns.”

“We continue to work diligently with our public health and Veterans’ Affairs partners to get immediate medical care to residents or staff at the Home who are experiencing respiratory illness,” said Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D.   “Unfortunately, we expect to see additional cases and possibly additional deaths because the incubation period for Legionnaires’ disease can be up to two weeks, and because patients with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of more severe illness.”

On August 30, 2015, IDPH requested aid from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for epidemiology and environmental health assistance.  Yesterday, three CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officers and one environmental health specialist arrived at the Illinois Veterans’ Home – Quincy to work with IDVA and IDPH in investigating the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.  CDC will also provide laboratory support from its headquarters in Atlanta, GA.

IDVA and IDPH continue to work closely with the Adams County Health Department to identify and mitigate possible sources of the Legionella bacteria.  Due to the nature of the bacteria, test results can take up to two weeks.  Public and environmental health officials are working closely with home staff to implement control measures at the home in order to prevent additional individuals from being infected.

Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as hot water tanks, cooling towers, and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.  In order to be infected with the bacteria, a person must inhale contaminated water vapor.  Legionnaires’ disease cannot be transmitted person-to-person.