New law aims to protect health care facilities from pathogens in water supplies

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(The Center Square) – Cases of Legionnaires’ disease continue to rise, and now a new Illinois law aims to protect senior citizens and other at-risks residents from waterborne illnesses. 

In required U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting, Illinois typically reports 300 to 500 cases of Legionnaires’ disease annually. A study published earlier this year found that the incidence of Legionnaires’ disease has been on the rise for more than 15 years.  

A new law requires water utilities to notify healthcare and senior living facilities of water supply disruptions that could lead to water quality problems, such as legionella and other pathogens.  

In 2015, an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease killed 14 people and sickened dozens more at an Illinois veterans’ home in Quincy. The incident cost the state millions in settlement money to families.  

Officials say Illinois can’t let its guard down because legionella in water supplies is still a threat.

“A big concern about this is that 96% of the cases are individual cases and not part of an outbreak, so most of them go unreported and unaddressed and so that is why this ongoing effort is so critical,” said Brad Considine, director of Strategic Initiatives with the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease.

The Illinois Department of Corrections reported in March that water samples at five prisons tested positive for legionella bacteria.  

Under the legislation, water supply operators must send notices between 15 and 30 days before any planned water supply disruption event or within two hours after any unplanned disruption event to health care facilities, as well as to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois Department of Public Health. Operators must also post a notice on their website or social media page, if one exists.

“It is not the final solution to Legionnaires’ disease prevention, but it is a significant step forward,” Considine said. 

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June 20, 2022 at 05:32PM

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