Two Legionnaires' cases at Vets Home, one dead - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Two Legionnaires' cases at Vets Home, one dead

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The Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs reported Wednesday that two residents at the Illinois Veterans' Home in Quincy contracted Legionnaires' disease.

IDVA Communications Manager Dave MacDonna said one of the residents died in the past week, but the other was recovering. The two cases of Legionnaires was confirmed Wednesday morning.

"We are testing the water and closely monitoring residents," MacDonna said. "We don't know the source (of the Legionnaires') at this point."

Illinois Veterans' Home Administrator Troy Culbertson said in both cases, water tests in the residents' rooms came back negative for legionella.

"We test the water at the site: in their resident room and in those buildings immediately," Culbertson said. "We do it in that room and adjacent rooms and they're all coming back negative."

MacDonna said they believe the death was not directly caused by Legionnaires' disease, but was a contributor.

"The resident had a complex medical issue," MacDonna said. "I can't discuss those medical issues."

The two cases comes after an outbreak at the vets' home in 2015. IDVA reported 12 residents died in connection with the outbreak, while dozens of other residents were sickened by the disease.

Officials reported four more cases at the vets' home last year.

"It's not a massive surprise that we would see cases because the monitoring for the last two years since we defined this problem has been immense," Adams County Health Administrator Jerrod Welch said. "When people display symptoms, they're immediately tested for (legionella)."

Since then, a $2.3 million water system was installed to combat the problem.

Culbertson said all water tests since have had disinfectant levels at or above what's recommended by EPA. 

Welch said the community is safe.

"There's no risk for the community," Welch said, "that's above what the normal would be for legionella."

Click here to read the CDC report regarding 2015 outbreak.


Facts about Legionnaires' disease

  • Legionella can cause Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever, collectively known as legionellosis.
  • The bacterium was named after an outbreak in 1976, when many people who went to a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion got sick with pneumonia (lung infection).
  • About 6,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported in the United States in 2015. However, because Legionnaires’ disease is likely underdiagnosed, this number may underestimate the true incidence.
  • About one out of every 10 people who get sick from Legionnaires’ disease will die.
  • People can get Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain Legionella.
  • In general, people do not spread Legionnaires’ disease to other people. However, this may be possible in rare cases.
  • Legionella is found naturally in fresh water environments, like lakes and streams. It can become a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made water systems.
  • Keeping Legionella out of water systems in buildings is key to preventing infection.

Causes and Common Sources of Infection

Legionella is a type of bacterium found naturally in freshwater environments, like lakes and streams. It can become a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made water systems like

  • Showers and faucets
  • Cooling towers (air-conditioning units for large buildings)
  • Hot tubs that aren’t drained after each use
  • Decorative fountains and water features
  • Hot water tanks and heaters
  • Large plumbing systems

Home and car air-conditioning units do not use water to cool the air, so they are not a risk for Legionella growth.

How It Spreads

After Legionella grows and multiplies in a building water system, that contaminated water then has to spread in droplets small enough for people to breathe in. People can get Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain the bacteria.

Less commonly, people can get Legionnaires’ disease by aspiration of drinking water. This happens when water “goes down the wrong pipe,” into the trachea (windpipe) and lungs instead of the digestive tract. People at increased risk of aspiration include those with swallowing difficulties.

In general, people do not spread Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever to other people. However, this may be possible in rare cases.

Talk to your doctor or local health department if You believe you were exposed to Legionella AND You develop symptoms, such as fever, cough, chills, or muscle aches

Your local health department can determine whether or not to investigate. Be sure to mention if you spent any nights away from home in the last 10 days.

People at Increased Risk

Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. People at increased risk of getting sick are:

  • People 50 years or older
  • Current or former smokers
  • People with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema)
  • People with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy)
  • People with cancer
  • People with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure

*Above information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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