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New health woes at Quincy Veterans Home: 24 reported with vomiting and diarrhea

Gov. Bruce Rauner, center, talks with members of the Illinois Veterans Home after staying at the home in Quincy in January. File Photo. (Phil Carlson/The Quincy Herald-Whig via AP)

The state’s Department of Public Health on Friday reported that 24 people at the embattled Illinois Veterans Home in Downstate Quincy have contracted a gastrointestinal illness that is causing vomiting and diarrhea.

The home is where 13 residents have died of Legionnaires’ disease since 2015. Dozens more contracted the severe form of pneumonia.

The department reported an outbreak of the gastrointestinal illness among both residents and staff. Norovirus is suspected, although tests are pending to confirm that.

“Beginning earlier this week, 24 individuals experienced vomiting and diarrhea for a couple days,” the department said in a release. All the cases are located in one building, and the department said “there have been no serious illnesses and individuals are recovering.”

The department sent staff to the home to inspect the kitchen and gather data on those who became sick. The department notes norovirus is the leading cause of illness and outbreaks from contaminated food in the U.S.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has been criticized along with state health officials for their handling of a Legionnaires’ crisis. Emails obtained by WBEZ indicated officials knew about the outbreak for nearly a week before alerting the public. Eleven families are suing the state.

In January, Rauner spent several nights at the home “to gain a more thorough understanding of the clinical, water-treatment and residential operations of the home,” a spokeswoman said at the time.

And the issue became campaign fodder during the primary, with several Democratic gubernatorial candidates criticizing Rauner’s response to the crisis.

Earlier this month, Rauner tapped Michael Hoffman, former head of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, to take over the state’s response to the outbreak at the home.

The Rauner administration also announced it plans to replace residence halls at the home. The state didn’t provide a cost estimate, and preliminary recommendations from a task force the governor appointed are due on March 31.

Democratic legislators took to Twitter on Friday evening to criticize the Rauner administration’s response to illnesses at the home.