Published On: Wed, Aug 22nd, 2012

Chicago: Three cases of Legionnaires’ disease linked to JW Marriott Chicago Hotel

Chicago health officials say that up to 8,500 guests of popular, downtown hotel may have been exposed to the potentially serious bacterium in light of reports of  three confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in patrons of the hotel.

According to a Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) news release Tuesday, since August 14, CDPH has received reports of three confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease among people who stayed at the hotel during this time frame suggesting that the hotel is the common exposure setting.

Health officials believe the source has been identified and there is currently no ongoing health risk at the hotel. However, CDPH is asking people who stayed at the hotel during July16-August 15 and who are experiencing symptoms consistent with Legionnaires’ disease or who have been diagnosed with pneumonia to contact their healthcare provider to discuss whether treatment is needed or whether any current treatment to be modified.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the JW Marriott Chicago Hotel, 151 W. Adams St., is mailing letters to customers who might have been exposed. About 65 percent of the letters had been mailed as of Tuesday, a hotel spokesman said.

“We don’t feel there is an ongoing threat at the hotel, however what is important right now is diagnosing and treating anybody that may have been exposed as soon as possible because that can help shorten the recovery period and prevent serious complications.” said Dr. Kathleen Ritger, Medical Director over Communicable Disease, Chicago Department of Public Health.

Dave Grissen, President of the Americas for Marriott International said, “We have been in regular contact with the Chicago Department of Public Health since they’ve notified us and have taken all precautions, according to their advice; including draining the pool, hot tub and fountain. We care deeply about the safety of our guests and employees, and want them to be fully advised of our actions to protect their health.  The CDPH believes the source of the bacteria has been identified and the situation has been remedied.  We thank our guests for their loyalty and understanding and would like to salute CDPH and our employees for their quick action.”

Anyone with symptoms should contact their doctor. Those who might have been exposed can call a public health hotline at 312-746-4835 on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease gained national notoriety in 1976 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered it during an epidemic of pneumonia among American legion members at a convention in Philadelphia.

legionnaires' disease

Legionella Image/CDC

The causative organism is the bacteria, Legionella pneumophila. Other species have also been implicated in Legionnaires’ disease. The legionella bacteria are found throughout nature, because of this most people become exposed to it but few develop symptoms.

The primary place in nature it’s found is water sources particularly at warmer temperatures; lakes, rivers and moist soil.

It is also found in man-made facilities (frequently the source of outbreaks) such as air-conditioning ducts and cooling towers, humidifiers,whirlpools and hospital equipment.

People get exposed through inhaling infectious aerosols from these water sources. There is no transmission from person to person.

The infection can appear in two clinical forms: Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever.

Both conditions are typified by headache, fever, body aches and occasionally abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Legionnaires’ disease is the cause of pneumonia where a non productive cough is typical. Fatality rates of this form of the infection are around 15 % even with improvements in treatment.

Pontiac fever is a self limiting flu-like illness that does not progress to pneumonia or death. Diagnosis is usually made by typical symptoms in a outbreak setting.

Diagnosis of Legionnaires’ disease depends on identifying the bacteria in microbiological culture, detecting the antigen in urine samples or a fourfold increase in antibody titer.

Certain health conditions make you more susceptible to infection to include increasing age, smoking, chronic lung disease, malignancy anddiabetes mellitus.

Legionnaires’ disease is treatable with antibiotics.

To following things can be done as preventive measures: cooling towers should be drained when not in use and cleaned to remove scale and sediment and biocides can be used to limit bacterial growth. Tap water should not be used in respiratory therapy devices.


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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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