News Feature | December 28, 2017

In Illinois, Legionnaires' Takes Lives Of 13 Veterans

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

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A home for veterans in Illinois suffered an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease this year.

“Thirteen residents at the Illinois Veterans Home have died of the disease over the past three years,” the Associated Press reported. “Eleven families are suing the state for negligence,” WBEZ reported.

It appears that the veterans who died were sickened by bacteria-contaminated water, reports said.

“Their families contend they weren’t diagnosed nor given antibiotics quickly enough to fend off what typically is a treatable form of waterborne pneumonia,” WBEZ reported.

Illinois officials are under fire for how they handled the situation.

“Illinois’ senior U.S. senator, Dick Durbin, is saying the facility should be shuttered until its water system is fully safe. And he said it’s a ‘scandal’ and an ‘insult’ to veterans that the state hasn’t been able to rid the facility’s water system of Legionella bacteria over the course of nearly 30 months,” WBEZ reported.

Governor Bruce Rauner opposes the idea of closing the home.

“Their risk of possible infection and death goes up if they’re forced to move out,” Rauner said, per CBS News.

Rauner said in December that the state is taking "aggressive action" to respond to the issue.

“Our team is taking every possible action to make sure that our veterans are safe and healthy,” he said, per CBS News.

“Fact is, in Illinois, legionella bacteria are common in the water supplies throughout the state, and it’s something we need to stay vigilant about,” Rauner said.

Among actions the state took to respond to the outbreak: building a new water treatment plant, adding more chlorine, and using heat to kill bacteria, CBS News reported.

Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the U.S. occur “in private homes with no common link other than their water supply, underscoring that drinking water distribution systems are the ultimate source of outbreaks,” Chemical & Engineering News reported.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Contaminant Removal Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Hospital de la Cruz Roja de Vigo," Contando Estrelas © 2010, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: