* There are two parts to the latest WBEZ story on Legionnaires’ disease at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy. One is the six-day period between August 21 of 2015, when Illinois Public Health Director Nirav Shah claimed the administration “realized that the situation was the beginning of an epidemic,” and August 27 of 2015 when the Rauner administration issued its first public notice about that epidemic…
In the email, Shah underlined “six days” for added emphasis, but it is not clear why. His reference to a “typical reporting protocol” also is not fully explained, with a spokeswoman on Wednesday saying there is no “hard and fast rule” about when the public must be notified about an infectious disease outbreak. […]
One of the nation’s top infectious disease experts said it’s “mind boggling” that the state would wait six days to notify the public about the initial outbreak at the Illinois Veterans Home.
“I think it’s really inexcusable,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Center for Health Security in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. “It takes you six days from seeing an epidemic to tell people that you’re seeing an epidemic? That’s six days that you’ve allowed that disease to spread in a manner that probably wouldn’t have happened if you would have known earlier because people would have been taking action. People would have been asking questions.
“If you know there is an epidemic, you need to tell people immediately,” Adalja said.
Keep in mind that Legionnaires’ is not typically passed from person to person. So, it wasn’t an “epidemic” in the way, say, measles can be. But by not informing the public, facility residents and their families couldn’t take precautions against the epidemic - like getting tested if they showed symptoms, or even temporarily moving out.
What’s worse to me is that top government officials knew what was going on and apparently didn’t order testing of everyone showing symptoms and then people died as a result.
* The second revelation in today’s story is about more Legionnaires’ cases this year that were not previously disclosed to the public…
Meanwhile, Illinois public health officials are now telling WBEZ that five residents and one employee at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy were sickened by Legionnaires’ in 2017. That outbreak included one fatality, an 88-year-old Korean War veteran from west suburban Lisle in early November.
As recently as two weeks ago, the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which manages the Quincy home, had confirmed just three cases to WBEZ and disputed that Legionnaires’ caused the veterans’ death last month. But the coroner in Adams County confirmed Legionnaires’ as a cause of death on the resident’s death certificate.
In late October, when the state confirmed two cases of Legionnaires’, including the fatality, WBEZ explicitly asked a state Veterans’ Affairs spokesman whether there had been any additional cases. The spokesman responded by email saying there had not been. In a Dec. 6 interview with WBEZ, Jeffries also cited three cases.
But this week, after learning more cases did exist in 2017 beyond those two — and a later case in November that the state disclosed — WBEZ was told by state public health authorities that, in fact, six Legionnaires’ cases have been logged this year at the Quincy facility.
Arnold, the state Public Health spokeswoman, said on Wednesday that one case occurred in March, another in May, another in September, two in October, and one in November. She did not provide any other details about those cases.
What the heck is going on over there?
Rauner defended his administration’s handling of the problem of Legionnaires in the water at Quincy Veterans’ Home in downstate Illinois which has led to 13 deaths since a major outbreak in 2015.
However, are demanding details and accountability.
“If he’s in charge he definitely bears responsibility, but you have to ask him if he’s in charge,” said state Sen. Tom Cullerton, chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Cullerton said he hopes to get answers during a hearing next month. The joint Senate and House hearing on the Quincy situation is set for Jan. 9 in Chicago.
“Who knew what, when they knew it, why the families weren’t there, what the long term goal is, what the CDC’s going to do going forward,” Cullerton said.
…Adding… Pritzker campaign…
“Bruce Rauner’s willful negligence is coming into focus as reports expose significant delays in releasing information and a failure to report all confirmed Legionnaires’ cases,” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. “This administration hid information from Veterans, their families, and the public as Rauner let a health crisis spiral out of control and our nation’s heroes died on his watch.”
…Adding… Ives campaign…
“The Governor has a moral responsibility to those who are served by the state. He must ensure that services are delivered efficiently, meet the highest standards possible, and that they are, ultimately sustainable. When it becomes clear that the state is not living up to those responsibilities, the Executive Officer must then respond with urgency.
“Since his election in 2014, it become clear that Governor Rauner is very cavalier with other people’s lives. While Rauner plays his blame-shifting game with other IL ruling class pols, veterans died. Preventable deaths aren’t prevented when no one is in charge. Sweeping issues under the rug and breaking promises has become a common theme. This is another inexcusable betrayal of our veterans and the benefits they earned protecting our freedoms. Wasn’t Bruce Rauner the guy with business savvy who was going to make state government more efficient and responsive? He is AWOL and Illinois veterans are being short-changed as a result.”
“Bruce Rauner failed Illinois veterans and now he’s failing the public by not being honest,” said DGA Illinois Communications Director Sam Salustro. “So far, there’s been no accountability from Rauner’s administration for its bungled response to the Quincy outbreak. Rauner needs to stop hiding information, and start being open and transparent about what his administration knew and how it failed the veterans at Quincy.”
* Drink water at vets’ home linked to deaths? ‘Absolutely,’ Rauner says: Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday defended his administration’s response to a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at a state veterans’ home, saying he’d “absolutely” drink the water there. “Absolutely, absolutely,” Rauner said when asked by a reporter about drinking the tap water at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, where 13 residents have died from Legionnaires’ disease since July 2015.
* CDC: 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.