Deadly Outbreak of Legionnaires’ at Illinois Veterans Home

Many of our veterans eventually find themselves living in a nursing home. When these men and women retire to these facilities we hope that the care they receive and the companionship of those with whom they share the experience of service will provide them with a high quality of life. Unfortunately sometimes veterans homes can play host to outbreaks of deadly diseases. This is currently the case in one such home in Quincy, Illinois.

Death Toll in Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak Climbs

CNN reports that seven residents of the veterans home in Quincy, Illinois have died as a result of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. ABC News reports that an eighth person in Quincy who is not a resident of the facility has died of the disease in a seemingly separate outbreak. All eight of the people who have died in Quincy were elderly and had underlying serious medical problems. Both of these characteristics put individuals at a higher risk of contracting the airborne disease. The CDC is on site at the home assisting in the investigation into what caused the outbreak. The disease is usually contracted by inhaling bacteria that lives in warm water. As of September 8 new cases are still being diagnosed. The last death in this outbreak occurred on September 1.

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a very serious type of pneumonia that is caused by a bacteria called legionella. If the disease goes untreated or the patient is elderly or otherwise ill the disease can be fatal. For most patients if they receive antibiotic treatment quickly they can make a full recovery.

How to Avoid Legionnaires’ Outbreaks

There are ways that outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease can be prevented. According to the Mayo Clinic prevention requires meticulous cleaning and disinfection of water systems, pools,a and spas. While many outbreaks have been blamed on problems with cooling towers, U.S. News & World Report reported last month that government figures show that nursing home showers are actually a main culprit. This means that the investigation into what caused the outbreak and whether it was caused by negligence on the part of the facility should start by looking at all of the water systems. Since there is not much an individual nursing home or veterans home resident can do to control water quality, there is not much he or she can do to prevent exposure to the disease. However, avoiding smoking can decrease the risk that a person will develop the disease after exposure.

Not the First Nursing Home With Such an Outbreak

The Illinois home is not the first with one of these outbreaks. A retirement community in Jacksonville Florida had an outbreak earlier this year. Legionella bacteria was found at a nursing home in the Bronx earlier this summer. According to the CDC the proportion of illness due to contaminated drinking water has increased from 15 percent of cases in 2009-10 to 52 percent of cases in 2011-12.

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