QUINCY -- A fourth case of Legionnaires' disease was confirmed Friday at the Illinois Veterans Home, as was a case that involves a Quincy resident without any connection to the home.
Dave MacDonna, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, said Legionella bacteria, which causes the illness, is everywhere, and that makes it difficult to handle.
"The gentleman who tested positive this week leaves the property a lot and walks all over the place. We don't know if he caught this on our property or elsewhere," MacDonna said.
"There was nothing in his room or where he eats or relaxes. The bacteria is not in the building where he lives. That's the frustrating part. We can't determine the exact source."
Troy Culbertson, superintendent of the Vets Home, said the resident is recovering at the home. He said the Adams County Health Department set up quick treatment parameters for any respiratory illnesses. That allowed staff to start giving the patient antibiotics used in the treatment of Legionnaires' even before test results confirmed the Legionella bacteria.
"If it is caught early, there's a very high success rate for full recovery," Culbertson said.
Melanie Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, described Legionella as "a very stubborn and very common bacteria." She said there were 305 cases of Legionnaires' disease confirmed statewide last year. Health officials say many more cases are diagnosed only as pneumonia, and doctors do not always test for Legionella bacteria.
"Since the doctors in Quincy have seen Legionnaires', they are testing for it. There could be other cases around the state where the disease isn't identified," Arnold said.
Last year, Legionnaires' disease sickened 53 people and led to 12 deaths at the Vets Home, which houses nearly 400 residents.
The Illinois Capital Development Board spent nearly $5 million on a state-of-the-art water treatment plant and delivery system at the Vets Home after last year's outbreak.
Culbertson said extra chlorination is added to the water, which is then heated to 150 degrees or more to kill Legionella bacteria.
"We check for the bacteria at 65 spots that are tested every day," Culbertson said.
A water committee that includes Vets Home staff, a water management company and local consultant, members from the Adams County Health Department and the Illinois Department of Public Health meets each week to review daily water tests.
Legionella bacteria grows in areas of warm water and often is present in water supplies. To become infected, a person has to inhale water vapor containing the bacteria, often from decorative fountains, hot tubs, shower areas and cooling towers. The disease cannot be transmitted from person to person.
Arnold said since earlier Legionnaires' disease cases were announced at the Vets Home on July, 27 veterans have been tested -- with 23 negative results and four positive results. The initial three residents who tested positive have recovered, while the resident with the most recent case is recovering as well.