The Quincy Veterans Home in Quincy, Illinois has unveiled a new water system designed to combat Legionnaires’ disease.
An August 2015 outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at the home sickened 53 people and caused 12 deaths. (Read our blog post for more about this outbreak.) During the outbreak, residents drank bottled water and avoided showers as officials disinfected water tanks with chlorine and shut down potential sources of the bacteria.
As investigators noted, the veterans’ home posed several challenges to officials as they sough to stop the spread of the disease. The sprawling, 200-acre campus contains 48 buildings, making efforts to identify and control the source of the contaminated water complicated. The facility was founded over 100 years ago and much of its infrastructure is aging. The 400 residents of the veterans’ home are at particular risk of contracting the disease, which is especially dangerous to patients who are over age 50 or suffering from ill health and compromised immune systems.
Emergency repairs and replacement of the water system took place soon after the 2015 outbreak. The Illinois Capital Development Board provided nearly $5 million in funding for a new water main and upgraded sanitation equipment. Though operational funds were temporarily withheld from the facility in late 2015 due to the state’s budget crisis, funds were eventually released in December and work continued under the direction of several local sanitation companies. State health officials and the CDC were also involved in the investigation; the CDC released a detailed report about the state of the facility, including recommendations that action be taken to modernize the water system and improve screening for Legionellosis.
Now, the new water system is in use and has begun serving the veterans’ home. A garage on the premises was converted into a chemical treatment station and several other upgrades to the cold-water system were implemented. Water is now treated daily with disinfectant before traveling to individual buildings on the campus, where it is heated to temperatures at which Legionella bacteria cannot survive. The water is then cooled and released into the building’s system.
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