Search on for source of new Legionnaires' outbreak at Illinois vet home

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
QUINCY, Ill. (WLS) -- For weeks the ABC7 I-Team has been investigating a growing number of Legionnaires cases in Illinois; and now there is a concerning development in western Illinois amid an outbreak of the Legionnaires' illness at a veterans home.

This outbreak in downstate Quincy has public health authorities concerned - not just because eight people are infected, but because they are in one location. That means it's likely they all contracted the sometimes fatal illness from the same source, and at this point, they don't know what that source is.

No one has died at the Quincy Veterans Home, but as state and county health authorities try to identify the source of the water-borne bacteria, facility water systems are off-limits.

The disease is a type of severe pneumonia caused by inhaling water vapor that contains legionella bacteria. The number of cases in Illinois the past five years has doubled and so far this year, as four people in Illinois have died from Legionnaires' disease. But health officials say the spike has been individual cases spread statewide.

This most recent Illinois outbreak raises fresh concerns with eight victims in one location and possibly more, as authorities say they await additional lab tests. The Quincy infection comes on the heels of New York City's deadliest Legionnaires' wave this summer. The New York outbreak that left dozens dead or infected was generated by water cooling equipment on high rise buildings.

In most cases, authorities are unable to backtrack the infection source.

This summer, all tests were negative at a Gold Coast Chicago rehab facility where an elderly resident was found to have Legionnaires' disease in mid-July and later died.

Residents of senior citizen centers and veterans care facilities are at high-risk anyway for Legionnaires' disease because people older than 50 and with compromised immune systems are most susceptible.

It cannot be spread person-to-person but is contracted from water sources. Authorities in Quincy say an extensive investigation is underway to figure out what that source is.

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