CDC: Illinois VA facility cannot fully eliminate Legionnaires' risk

The water system at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy may never be fully cleansed of Legionella bacteria and that the occurrence of more cases of Legionnaires' could be inevitable, according to a CDC report released Jan. 4 obtained by WBEZ.

Here are five things to know.

1. The Illinois VA facility, home to nearly 400 residents, has experienced three separate outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease since 2015, causing a total of 64 infection and 13 deaths.

2. The CDC issued the report after conducting an on-site investigation at the facility from Dec. 4-6. The report offers recommendations to help reduce the risk of Legionnaires' at the facility. Recommendations include the development of written protocols tailored to the Quincy facility for the detection of healthcare-associated pneumonia and Legionella bacteria, outfitting sink faucets with specially filters designed to trap the bacteria and disallowing residents from being in the room when staff conduct the daily flushing of faucets.

3. However, the agency said it is unclear how successful these strategies would be at reducing the risk of infections.

"While adoption of these recommendations should further reduce risk, the possibility of future cases of disease associated with the [Quincy veterans' home] cannot be eliminated," said the CDC. "How much further our recommended changes will reduce risk is unclear."

4. The CDC investigation follows a WBEZ report that aired in December, which questioned the state's response to the three outbreaks. Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Jan. 4 announced his intention to move into the facility with First Lady Diana Rauner for a few days to gain a better understanding of the situation there. The governor's office did not immediately respond to WBEZ's request for comment on the Rauners' specific living arrangements.

5. Legionnaire's is a virulent form of pneumonia contracted through the inhalation of water carrying Legionella Those with weakened immune systems like the elderly are at greater risk of infection.

To read or listen to the full WBEZ report, click here.

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