* Last night, I went through the WBEZ story about the 2015 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy with the idea of putting together a timeline to make it easier to understand. But I quickly found that I needed even more information outside of the story.
What I’ve come up with is admittedly incomplete, but it still gives you an idea of what’s out there in the public domain. Dates with hyperlinks contain information outside of the WBEZ story. Those without links are from the WBEZ story, which, if you missed it, you can read by clicking here…
July 24: Earliest known case of Legionnaires’ disease at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy, according to a report issued later by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
August 21: Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Director Erica Jeffries later claims that on this date, her department “shut down the water, we removed aerators from all the showers, we shut down our fountains, we started issuing bottled water” because of the outbreak.
August 21: Illinois Veterans’ Home resident Melvin Tucker develops a fever. He is given Tylenol.
August 23: Illinois Department of Public Health notifies CDC of “five laboratory-confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease among residents and staff.”
August 24: Adams County Health Department Director of Clinical and Environmental Services Shay Drummond claims this is the date when “environmental control and mediation” actually starts
August 24: In an email, a state Veterans’ Affairs spokesman alerted the governor’s press staff about the Legionnaires’ test results, saying, “We have a situation at the Quincy home.” The spokesman went on to say he did not intend to publicize details of the test results that day unless “directed or in the case of wide media interest.”
Aug. 26: There are now 28 Legionnaires’ disease onsets, the CDC reports later.
August 26: Three days after CDC was first notified of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, and 2-4 days after remediation efforts began, Gerald Kuhn, 90, is given Tylenol for a fever that reaches 104 degrees. Kuhn asks to go to the hospital and tests positive there for Legionella.
August 26: Last day Dolores French is seen alive. Her military veteran husband lives in another section of the complex.
August 27: “The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced eight confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in residents at the Illinois Veterans’ Home - Quincy. There have been no known deaths related to this outbreak.”
August 27: After six days with a fever, Melvin Tucker is still not on any kind of antibiotic and hasn’t yet been tested for Legionnaires’, despite the CDC being notified four days earlier of an outbreak and the state announcing eight confirmed cases that same day.
August 28: “Two residents of an Illinois veterans home have died of Legionnaires’ disease, the Illinois Department of Public Health said Friday…. [both] had underlying medical conditions. Both were among 23 residents of the facility who had earlier been diagnosed with the disease.”
August 29: Dolores French is found dead. Her only underlying medical condition was deafness.
August 30: IDPH formally requests Epidemiologic Assistance (Epi-Aid) from the CDC.
August 31: Melvin Tucker and Gerald Kuhn die, bringing the death total to four.
August 31: Three CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officers and one environmental health specialist arrive at the veterans’ home.
September 1: “The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced the deaths of a total of seven residents at the Illinois Veterans’ Home-Quincy. The seven residents, all of whom had underlying medical conditions, were among the 39 individuals who had been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease to date.” [Dolores French’s only underlying medical condition was deafness.]
September 9: Adams County health officials report 2 more deaths.
September 14: Another resident dies, bringing the death toll to 12 out of 54 who have by now contracted the disease.
The most important takeaway for me when doing this post is that they knew they had a disease problem, yet aged men who were displaying symptoms were given Tylenol and neither tested or given antibiotics. Look, hindsight is 20/20. I get it. But this is just appalling.
Besides that, there are a ton of unanswered questions here. Why did state officials wait so long to notify the CDC, the governor’s office and the public, including the residents and their families ? When did the cleanup really start? Why did they wait so long to request a CDC Epi-Aid (click here for an explanation of what that is)? Why did they emphasize the claim that all of those who died had underlying medical conditions?
And here’s something else to ponder: On August 12, 2015, the Tribune reported that an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. How does IDOC stop an outbreak among prisoners at the same time that IDVA is badly bungling the care of military veterans?