It's been over a week since Legionnaires' disease broke out at the Illinois Veterans Home, sickening dozens and killing seven people. But, staff members say the outbreak may be nearing the end.
Director of Nursing Cathy Houston joined Greg Haubrich and Dylan Austin on WGEM News Talk Live on Friday morning, and gave an update on what's going on at the veterans home now.
Houston says while the source of the Legionella bacteria still hasn't been found, staff has taken precautions to make sure no one else is exposed.
The bacteria, which is found naturally in the environment, shows up in soil and in water. It grows best in warm water, like hot tubs and fountains and plumbing systems. In order to get sick, a person has to breathe in the mist or vapor from water infected with the bacteria.
"We're using bottled water," Houston said. "We now have special shower heads on our showers in all the units so that there is no risk at all of Legionella coming in through the showers, and these were approved through the CDC, so we are acting as if and proceeding as if any potential possible cause is a positive factor and we are eliminating all possible causes."
Houston says while using bottled water is inconvenient, residents and staff have been understanding and are moving on with things.
"They understand," Houston said. "We've done a lot of education with residents and family and staff, so they're all well aware. I think we're doing very well."
Tammy Oberling, a registered nurse at the home, says the staff have quickly adapted to methods using bottled water for bathing and cooking, as well as increased patient monitoring. Oberling also says the situation actually prepared them for the future.
"It at least gave us a practice run for this winter, when influenza hits, or pneumonia," Oberling said. "It's got us on our toes."
Houston says the staff is still being very careful and treating anyone with any symptoms as if they have Legionnaires' disease.
"We're being very vigilant to make sure if anybody is exhibiting symptoms, we're treating them immediately," Houston said. "We're very unique in the fact that we have physicians right here on the ground that work here every day. Our residents are being seen every day. They're being treated proactively."
The reports can take several days to come back, Houston says. And it can take up to 14 days after exposure for someone to show any symptoms.
But Houston had positive news to share.
"We have not had to send any resident to the hospital in the last three to four days, which is a very positive thing."
Houston says most of the residents who had been sent to the hospital have returned.