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Deadly Legionnaire’s Disease Outbreaks at Veterans’ Home in Quincy, Illinois. Is the Government Downplaying the Problem?

For three straight years, a deadly outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease at a veterans’ home in Quincy, Illinois has returned, causing illness and death at the facility, and the state of Illinois seems to be downplaying this serious issue, despite investing millions of dollars in taxpayer’s money on the facility.

Legionnaire’s disease is caused by harmful bacteria that grows and spreads in warm water and can easily sicken people who are exposed to it. It is possible to contract legionellosis from inhaling water vapor in showers, fountains, or sinks. The Illinois Veterans Home, a state-run facility, has reported three straight years of legionellosis exposure which has sickened at least 61 residents and staff members and has killed 13 people.

While attention is now being paid to the crisis and how Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration has handled (or mishandled) the problem at the veterans’ facility, questions continue to surface about what should have been done before and after he took office. Senior Senator Dick Durbin has called for the facility to be shut down until the water system has been completely replaced and the quality of the water can be certified as “safe”, but as of now, the facility remains open.

Since an initial outbreak in 2015 that resulted in the death of 13 residents, the state invested $6.4 million dollars in upgrading the facility’s 100-year old plumbing infrastructure and implemented new water treatment standards at the home. Recently, the Illinois Department of Veteran’s Affairs proclaimed that the facility had the “cleanest water in the state”. The Centers for Disease Control, however, released a statement saying that the upgrades were a marked improvement, but the facility’s plumbing system still poses a “significant risk” due to its extreme age and the difficulty of completely eradicating the bacteria once it is found in an environment.

Right now, eleven families are suing the state for negligence on behalf of the deceased, but caps on damages against state-run facilities limits the potential recovery to $100,000 per case. While the families seek restitution, state representatives are looking for answers from the Governor’s office. Representative Durbin said in a statement: “This has progressed from a disastrous situation, where veterans of the state of Illinois have lost their lives because of contamination in the water supply at the veterans’ home in Quincy, to a scandal. I just don’t think there’s any other word to describe it,”

In order to prevent further outbreaks, it is clear that something needs to be done at the state facility. While veterans and employees of the facility are still at risk, the Illinois government has not taken responsibility or shown enough initiative to completely fix the issue or shut down the facility. If you or a loved one believe you have contracted Legionnaires’ disease, contact our skilled attorneys at (815) 929-9292 today.