Four people have died at the Quincy, Illinois Veterans’ Home of complications from Legionnaires’ Disease. Those four are among the 29 people who were diagnosed with the illness. That is an increase of six more patients who have been diagnosed since this weekend. The latest press release from the Illinois Government News Network, dated August 28, 2015, states that two people have died, but today’s news reports state that four have died.
The men who died were in their 80s and 90s. The source of the outbreak has not been found yet.
Legionella bacteria commonly grow and thrive in water systems, such as cooling towers, water tanks, hot tubs, fountains, and plumbing systems in large buildings. A person becomes sick when they inhale vapor or mist from those outlets that is contaminated with the bacteria, or when they aspirate contaminated drinking water. This illness is not spread person-to-person. The disease is more common in the summer and early fall.
The Veterans’ Home is being cleaned and water systems are being disinfected. The Home does have a cooling tower, which has been cleaned. The large Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in the Bronx, New York, which sickened 124 people and killed 12, was linked to the cooling tower at the Opera House Hotel. Residents are being given water bottles for drinking, and fountains and other sources of water vapor have been shut off.
Erica Jeffries, Director, of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) said in a statement, “The IDVA and our Quincy Home staff are deeply saddened by the passing of these veterans, just as we are when any of our residents pass. We will continue to work closely with DIPH and the local healthcare providers to remediate these issues as quickly as possible to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our residents.”
Legionnaires’ Disease is similar to pneumonia, and people can be sick with mild illnesses or a very severe form of the disease. The time from exposure to symptoms can be from two days up to two weeks, so more cases may manifest. Up to 30% of those sickened with this bacteria die.
The names of the deceased are being withheld to allow families to notify others. IDVA and IDPH are working with the Adams County Health Department to find the source of the bacteria and to clean systems throughout the complex.
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease include cough, high fever, and chills. People who are older than 50, current or former smokers, and people with chronic lung diseases and weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to serious complications.