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Rauner: State Is Taking Action For Deaths At Quincy Veterans Home

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Gov. Bruce Rauner is under fire Wednesday over the outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at the Illinois Veterans Home in downstate Quincy.

While Rauner said the state is taking "aggressive action," he declined to say if his administration bears any of the responsibility, CBS 2's Derrick Blakley reports.

Furthermore, this isn't the first time this happened on the governor's watch. Two months ago, two of the 400 residents at the Quincy facility contracted Legionnaires' disease, one of which died. 13 residents have now died from the disease since July 2015.

When questioned, Rauner said his team has not dropped the ball.

"Our team is taking every possible action to make sure that our veterans are safe and healthy," he said.

Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of pneumonia caused by bacteria. It doesn't spread from person to person; rather, it is born and spread through mist or water.

"Fact is, in Illinois, legionella bacteria are common in the water supplies throughout the state, and it's something we need to stay vigilant about," Rauner said.

Two years ago, a Legionnaires' epidemic at the Quincy home killed 12 veterans. In the aftermath, the state constructed a new water treatment plant, adding more chlorine to the water and heating it to 150 degrees to kill bacteria.

But State Sen. Tom Cullerton says Rauner's administration hasn't been transparent, even hiding news of the outbreak from residents.

"They didn't tell them, and then they didn't tell families who had residents on the grounds that there was an epidemic and an outbreak," he said.

After New Year's, Cullerton's holding hearings to get more answers, he says.

Rauner rejects calls from Sen. Dick Durbin to simply close the Veterans Home. "Their risk of possible infection and death goes up if they're forced to move out."

Cullerton says he intends to call a variety of state agencies to his hearings, including Public Health, the Veterans Administration and the governor's office. He'll also summon the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He wants to review their recommendations and make sure they're all being followed.

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