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Eleven Families Sue Illinois Nursing Home After Veterans Died from Legionnaires’ Outbreak

A Quincy, Illinois nursing home has lost 13 veterans since 2015 from Legionnaires’ Disease, a severe form of pneumonia caused by a waterborne bacterium called legionella pneumophila, commonly referred to as just legionella. The same nursing home is also responsible for at least 60 other cases of the disease. The Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy is now being sued by the families of 11 of the 13 deceased veterans. In the lawsuit, the families accuse the facility of negligence for failing to adequately monitor the water supply and failure to provide a timely diagnosis of their loved ones, therefore delaying treatment with antibiotics known to cure Legionnaires’ Disease.

The Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy has had at least one case of Legionnaires’ Disease every year since 2014. 12 Legionnaires’-related deaths occurred in 2015 and the latest death was just this past fall. 3 of the 60 reported cases of illness also occurred this fall.

Senator Durbin Calls for Closure of Illinois Veterans Home
According to WBEZ, a Chicago radio station, Senator Dick Durbin demanded that residents be safely relocated and the nursing home temporarily closed until the facility’s water supply is determined to be completely free from the bacteria. The Director for the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs told the Herald-Whig newspaper that the facility has followed all of the preventative measures recommended by the CDC and has done all it can to ensure the level of legionella in their water is minimal.

The company that was hired by the state to oversee the water supply at the Illinois Veterans Home seems baffled by the most recent death due to Legionnaires’ Disease. According to an employee of Phigenics LLC, their firm had developed a rigorous water management program for the Illinois Veterans Home and as summer came and went, both the facility and Phigenics were confident that there wouldn’t be any new outbreaks. Summer, according to the Phigenics employee, is the hardest time to control legionella. Despite 3 cases this past fall, they still feel confident in the program they’ve developed for the Illinois Veterans Home.

How do Legionnaires’ Outbreaks Happen?
Legionella is a naturally occurring bacterium that is found in water sources. To the average person, coming in contact with the bacteria has minimal risk. In those who are older, smoke, have lung disease, or have weakened immune systems, however, the bacteria can quickly become fatal if early detection and intervention with antibiotics do not occur. While experts are certain that the disease is not spread by person-to-person contact, they believe a person becomes infected by aspirating (choking) contaminated secretions. According to Legionella.org, smokers and those with lung disease are believed to be more susceptible to contracting the disease because they have a weakened aspiration reflex which prevents the particles from getting into their lungs.

In June of this year, the CDC published a report that revealed that 80% of all cases of Legionnaires’ were contracted at a long term care facility. While advanced age is a risk factor for the disease, it also must be considered that the water systems within these facilities are not overseen with as much care as other facilities (such as hotels or apartment complexes) that house large numbers of people at one time. Hospitals were found to be responsible for 18% of all cases.

If someone you love has died from Legionnaires’ Disease while a resident of a nursing home, a patient at a hospital, or a guest or resident of any other type of facility, the Illinois personal injury attorneys of Levin and Perconti can help you determine if you have cause to pursue legal action. Proper maintenance of the water supply along with quick recognition of symptoms associated with the disease are essential to preventing deaths, especially in the elderly. Please contact us for a free consultation.