Reports Says Illinois Officials Worked to Shape Coverage of Legionnaires' Outbreak

Feb 28, 2018

Emails obtained by WBEZ show how officials were concerned about PR during a deadly 2015 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at a state-run veterans’ home.

After 86-year-old Army vet Eugene Miller died of Legionnaires’ - his son, Tim, wrote a Facebook message to a public health official.

"Why was no one working hard for my dad? Why did it take his death and another’s before the severity of this horrible disease was brought to public attention."

This message gets forwarded around and the Director of Public Health - Nirav Shah - appears to talk about how to “rebut” Miller’s grief-stricken note.


The emails include exchanges between officials and press aides prior to issuing the first news release about the outbreak. An epidemiologist at a Quincy hospital described a draft as ``smoke to cover peoples (sic) butts.''

Miller says that response is ‘inexcusable.’

In a statement - a Public Health spokeswoman did not respond to Miller’s note, but she said - quote “We understand the pain and frustration of the families affected by Legionnaires’ disease.”