State Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, represents the 47th Illinois Senate District that includes the Quincy Veterans Home.
Illinois lawmakers are seeking reassurance from the Rauner Administration that everything is being done to prevent another Legionnaires' disease outbreak at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, which has killed 13 people since 2015.
"Thank you to all the members of the committee who have taken the time", Frese said at a joint Illinois House-Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday over the 13 death related to the disease at the facility since 2015.
According to the CDC, people can contract Legionnaire's disease if they breathe in small droplets of water containing the bacteria legionella, which is found naturally in freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams.
Sitting alongside Shah and Jeffries during the almost four-hour hearing was Sam Posner, associate director for epidemiological science for the CDC.
"The veterans home does not end there", Shah said. Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Erica Jeffries says installing all new piping at the 130-year-old facility could create separate problems.
"There is not a requirement Rep. Frese, it is when we feel we are ready to receive onsite assistance", Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), said, adding immediately after August 21, 2015, when the first two cases of Legionella death were confirmed, the CDC was contacted.
Shah said compared to other health care facilities with a similar population of elderly residents, Quincy pneumonia rates are in-line or below what is expected. In 2017, five residents were sickened by the disease and one died.
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Rauner also praised staff members for their commitment to the veterans.
Shah said the important thing in such an emergency is to notify the facility.
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. He said Quincy home staff were told within 27 minutes of learning about the outbreak and they were ordered to restrict water usage that "turned the tide on the epidemic".
As the state continues to focus on eliminating any hazards and providing the best patient care, I urge everyone to please focus on the veteran residents and not the politics. Posner said he agreed with the actions taken by the state agencies and that he thought they'd done "an outstanding job" developing a water program to minimize risk of water being contaminated with the bacteria.
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Dr. Nirav Shah (NEER'-uhv SHA) says he has seen how well staff cares for the 349 residents at the home.
He said new protocols are trying to spot new cases quickly, like taking everyone's temperature ever four hours, including taking his temp, "I even had it at night".
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 hearing gets underway at 10 a.m. Tuesday. State Senator Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, issued a statement after Rauner called for the replacement of pipes and improved infrastructure at the home. A Centers for Disease control report released January 4 says the risk of Legionnaires' can not be "eliminated".
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