Illinois News

Individual cases of Legionella usually not reported to public

H-W File Photo
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jan. 4, 2018 9:25 am

QUINCY -- News media outlets, including The Herald-Whig, have been reporting that three new cases of Legionnaires' disease were confirmed in 2017 at the Illinois Veterans Home.

LAWSUITS

Click here to read 140 pages of lawsuit documents.


Ten lawsuits have been filed against the state claiming the 2015 deaths at the Illinois Veterans Home were caused by negligence, and another lawsuit is reportedly being contemplated.

It turns out the number was twice that many.

Melaney Arnold, public information officer for the Illinois Department of Public Health, confirmed that six Legionella cases were reported at the Veterans Home last year.

Arnold reported three "singular cases" -- a staff person who also had exposures to other sources outside the Veterans Home in March, a resident in May and another resident in September. Then in October, two cases were reported within days, and the sixth case was reported in November.

One of the two residents confirmed to have Legionella in October subsequently died, bringing to 13 the total number of Legionella-related deaths at the Veterans Home over the past three years. The first outbreak came in 2015 when 12 people died. Five more residents tested positive for Legionnaires' disease in summer 2016.

This latest outbreak emerged after the state had spent $6.39 million to make enhancements to the Veterans Home's water system, which was believed responsible for the spread of the water-borne Legionella bacteria.

Jerrod Welch, administrator of the Adams County Health Department, said state regulations require Illinois medical institutions to report any new cases of Legionella to the Department of Public Health and, in turn, to the county health department within seven days of receiving laboratory confirmation.

Arnold said all of the cases that surfaced in 2017 at the Veterans Home were "reported in a timely manner." However, she said "individual cases of Legionnaires' disease are typically not reported to the media."

Welch said "only a cluster of cases would be released" to the media, which is what happened in October after two cases surfaced days apart. He said this is the general practice with most diseases that get reported to state health agencies.

Arnold said there are typically about 300 cases of Legionnaires' disease each year across Illinois.

Since the first Legionella outbreaks at the Veterans Home in 2015, Welch said the Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs have taken the lead in making notifications to the public and news media.

"We've kind of taken a secondary role in the process because of the ongoing nature of it -- and it being a state facility," Welch said.

"I guess our primary role at this point is to make sure that we don't see anything else outside of what is already known there (at the Veterans Home) that would be a broader concern to the community."

Welch said the Health Department identified one singular case of Legionnaires' disease in 2017 in Adams County with no known link to the Veterans Home.

Ten lawsuits have been filed against the state claiming the 2015 deaths were caused by negligence, and another lawsuit is reportedly being contemplated.

MORE INFORMATION

For more information about Legionnaires' disease -- and the outbreaks at the Illinois Veterans Home -- visit the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs website page dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diseases-a-z-list/legionellosis

Things to Do

Sign up for Email Alerts