Vets' home hearing on Legionnaires' nearly underway


Rauner has been staying at the facility since last week to better understand the operations of the home after it experienced a Legionnaires' disease outbreak.

Officials with Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration on Tuesday defended their response to a deadly 2015 outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at a state-run veterans home in downstate Quincy, telling lawmakers that they moved swiftly to solve the problem. Rauner said he's even looking into adding an entirely new building to house all 350 veterans Legionnaires is caused by the Legionella bacteria which is contracted by inhaling water mist.

Sitting alongside Shah and Jeffries during the almost four-hour hearing was Sam Posner, associate director for epidemiological science for the CDC.

But Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Erica Jeffries says installing all new piping at the 130-year-old facility could create separate problems.

IDPH Director Dr. Nirav Shah said it was a matter of ensuring that all information was gathered before sending out a news release. Republican Sen. Sam McCann said Shah should resign, criticizing him for taking three days to notify the governor's senior staff of the outbreak and for withholding from families what the department knew early on about the outbreak. A visit or a sit-down conversation on this issue with the staff would show a great deal of support for Quincy and one of its most valuable residences.

Shah said the important thing in such an emergency is to notify the facility.

Keep Quincy home's doors open
Lawmakers seek answers on vets' home Legionnaires' outbreak

He notified Rauner's senior staff on August 24.

State officials, though, did not notify the public or the families of residents who weren't experiencing symptoms of the disease until six days later. Quincy home staff were told within 27 minutes and ordered to restrict water usage that "turned the tide on the epidemic". The governor has defended his administration's handling of the outbreak, and his Twitter account on Tuesday repeated numerous arguments made by Shah and Jeffries during the hearing.

"Not only are they top of their profession in medical care and medical knowledge and expertise as well as maintenance expertise and other types of professional ability, they are a loving, nurturing, extended family for the veterans who live here", said Rauner. "I didn't want to hear testimony or various opinions", he said. He said the IVH has implemented every recommendation from the CDC since 2015 to combat the Legionella bacteria, but he said it has not been enough because there were outbreaks again in 2016 and 2017.

A steering committee was announced last week of various current and former Quincy and state leaders who support the home and want it to stay open.

The House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees plan a joint hearing Tuesday in Chicago on the illness that has contributed to the deaths of 13 residents since 2015 and sickened dozens of others. A Centers for Disease control report released January 4 says the risk of Legionnaires' can not be "eliminated". State Senator Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, issued a statement after Rauner called for the replacement of pipes and improved infrastructure at the home.

Jeffries said it was likely that the relatively common bacteria would continue to be found at the home.

Severe flu season slams all but one state — CDC
Any protection is better than none. "We have a lot of flu season to get through still", Jernigan said. National health officials predict the flu vaccine may only be about 32 percent effective this year.