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Legionnaires’ Outbreak Kills 7 at Illinois Veterans Home

All of us rely on doctors and nurses when we are sick. But as we get older and develop chronic health problems, many of us find ourselves relying on the professionals at nursing homes to provide us with all of our medical and personal needs. In additional to medical attention this can include things like fresh bedding, health food, and clean water to drink. When nursing homes fail to provide senior citizens with these basic things a serious health crises can result. In some cases that crisis takes the form of a disease outbreak. There has recently been such an outbreak at a Quincy veterans home of a disease typically related to improperly sanitized water systems.

Death Toll in Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak Climbs

According to a CNN report, seven residents of the veterans home in Quincy, Illinois have died as a result of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. An eighth person in Quincy has also died of the disease, but the eighth death did not occur at the facility and is not thought to be related to the outbreak. All of those killed in Quincy by the disease recently were elderly and suffering from underlying serious medical problems. Advanced age and illness increase the risk of contracting the disease and the risk of it being fatal. New cases have been diagnosed as recently as September 8. The most recent death occurred on September 1.

What is Legionnaire’s Disease?

Legionnaire’s disease is a type of pneumonia. It can be a very serious type of pneumonia, particularly in patients with underlying health problems. It is caused by a bacteria. A person is infected when he or she inhales the bacteria. Because the bacteria thrives in warm water, typically it is inhaled when a person is exposed to contaminated warm water. In otherwise healthy patients the disease is highly treatable with antibiotics so long as it is treated promptly.

How to Avoid Legionnaire’s Outbreaks

According to the Mayo Clinic preventing outbreaks of this disease requires meticulous cleaning and disinfection of water systems, pools,a and spas. Many outbreaks are blamed on cooling towers, but , U.S. News & World Report reported last month that government figures show that facility showers are actually a main culprit. Any place that has shared bathing facilities like nursing homes can be at high risk for an outbreak if proper sanitization measures are not taken.

Not the First Nursing Home With Such an Outbreak

The Illinois home is not the first nursing home to be affected by Legionnaire’s disease this summer. One Jacksonville Florida retirement community had an outbreak this year. Officials found Legionella bacteria at a nursing home in the Bronx earlier this summer. Infections from diseases like Legionnaires that are water-born are responsible for an increasing proportion of infections 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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