Durbin: CDC says same strain that killed 13 still exists at vets - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Durbin: CDC says same strain that killed 13 still exists at vets' home

Senator Dick Durbin speaks to the press following a tour of the Quincy veterans' home. Senator Dick Durbin speaks to the press following a tour of the Quincy veterans' home.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin had strong words Friday morning about the ongoing Legionnaires' disease issue at the Illinois Veterans' Home in Quincy after touring the facility.

Durbin toured the facility and met with the home administrator and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, who is currently staying at the home for "several days."

Durbin said he was told by the CDC that the same strain of Legionella bacteria found in 2015 is believed to still exist in the plumbing.

"The CDC found evidence of the same strain of Legionella bacteria that resulted in deaths in 2015, okay, in the same place," Durbin said. "That to me is a red light warning that something is going on in this facility."

Durbin said veterans need to be the focus.

"Number 1 priority of this visit: veterans," Durbin said. "To make sure that we give them continued quality care."

Since the 2015 Legionnaires' disease outbreak at the vets' began, officials have reported 13 deaths related to the illness and dozens of other cases. 

"It's a challenge to all of us and a challenge we need to meet to make sure that the Quincy veterans' home is in fact giving the best care and the safest care in the state," Durbin said.

During the news conference, Senator Durbin was asked about recent statements regarding the possibility of closing the Quincy facility.

"As far as closing the home, I don't believe that is necessary," Durbin said, "as long as we have a plan in place to move forward and make it even safer. At the time I made the statement, there was no plan in place or even the suggestion of a plan."

He stated the following:

The fact Legionnaires' disease occured three straight years is a concern for all of us and certainly to the familiies of the veterans. I was calling on the governor (Bruce Rauner) and his administration to respond to this in a positive and constructive way and quickly as possible. I feel a sense of urgency and I hope everyone does. We owe this to our veterans to provide a safe place to live. We promised we would.

I think that the fact the governor has visited and is staying overnight at the Quincy veterans' home shows that it's high on his priority list. And that was my goal. I've said to him, I've challenged him, I've invited him: Come up with a new plan. Come up with the next plan and let us help you pay for the funding on that.

Durbin said he told Rauner and Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Erica Jeffries that the job is far from over. 

"I said first, in no way shape or form can we declare mission accomplished or that we're finished here," Durbin said. "And they agreed completely with that."

The senator addressed questions regarding Rauner not speaking to media during his stay in Quincy.

"He told me he was personally committed to make sure we do everything we could and I told him I would stand by him," Durbin said. "I hope that after the governor's visit here, which I assume will be a few days from what he told me, and with his familiarity of how the home is being managed and what is being done to protect the veterans, he will step up and make himself available for public questioning. I hope at that time that he will also make the state's recommendation of what the next step will be."

Durbin also addressed the delay in health officials reporting the 2015 outbreak to the public.

"If you are facing a quote 'epidemic' closed quote, I think early, early notification is essential so that people are on guard," Durbin said. "Keep in mind it wasn't just veterans infected. There were staff members infected too. So we want to make sure people know as quickly as possible."

There have been several lawsuits filed by family members of residents who died in connection with the cases. You can find more information on the lawsuits here.

Click here to read extensive coverage of the Legionnaires' issue at the vets' home.

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