After tourist dies of Legionnaires’ disease, downtown Miami’s EPIC Hotel closes to guests

After tourist dies of Legionnaires’ disease, downtown Miami’s EPIC Hotel closes to guests

Acknowledgement to Ironshore Environmental

By Barbara De Lollis, USA TODAY

In the last three months, a European tourist who’d stayed at the luxury EPIC Hotel in downtown Miami died from Legionnaires’ disease, while two other prior guests had fallen ill with the same serious form of pneumonia, according to the Miami Herald.

Because all three people had stayed at the EPIC, Miami-Dade Health Department officials on Friday issued an advisory to EPIC Hotel guests. Since then, EPIC had to relocate some 400 guests so they’d stop coming into contact with the hotel’s water, which is what health officials believe is the problem, the Herald article says.

Hotel officials are currently working with health officials to resolve the problem, according to a company statement (see below). The EPIC – opened less than a year ago by San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels – has temporarily stopped accepting new guests, the statement says.

According to the Miami Herald, the European man who had died had visited EPIC nearly three months ago before leaving for a cruise; he was rushed to a local hospital, where he died, and the report of his death just surfaced. A second European man contracted the disease while at EPIC in late November, but health officials didn’t learn about the case until this month, when a third – a European woman who’d visited the hotel – was diagnosed as well, the Herald article says.

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious and sometimes fatal form of pneumonia, according to the World Health Organization. A bacterial infection, it’s contracted from contaminated water – not person-t0-person contact, the WHO website says. The death rate for people with healthy immune systems is about 10% to 15%, according to the WHO.

The hotel had previously installed a powerful water filter – but apparently it was so powerful that it removed too much chlorine from city water, encouraging bacterial growth, the Herald story says. Officials took water samples from the EPIC this week that showed chlorine levels below what’s needed to curb bacterial growth, the article says.

“What’s ironic is the hotel installed a special filtration system to enhance the quality of their drinking water,” Dr. Vincent Conte, Miami-Dade County’s top epidemiologist, told the Miami Herald.

The hotel will adjust its water system so that the incoming city water doesn’t go through the filter, Conte told the Herald. Health officials then plan to triple the chlorine levels temporarily to halt bacterial growth, the story says.

According to the Herald, doctors say people need not panic due to the fact that three cases have surfaced in the last two months – a fraction of the number of people who have come into contact with the water.

Here is the statement provided this evening by Bruce Rubin on behalf of the hotel:

“The EPIC Hotel has voluntarily partnered with the Miami-Dade Health Department to notify guests and staff of the possible presence of bacteria in its water system, and to engage in water remediation efforts.

“Though not currently accepting guests, the hotel remains in operation and is focused on minimizing guest inconvenience. Simultaneously, the hotel is working toward a quick and thorough resolution of the matter.

“The EPIC Hotel has taken the following precautionary measures under the guidance and direction of the health department to provide for the health and safety of its guests and staff. Steps taken thus far are as follows:

  • Immediate notification and communication of precautionary measures to guests and staff
  • Relocation of guests to area hotels to maximize guest care and minimize inconvenience
  • Efforts underway to notify future guests booked during this time, to make alternative arrangements
  • Worked together with the health department to conduct a thorough inspection of the hotel’s water system
  • Proceeded with all remedial procedures in conjunction with the health department to restore full system operations

“EPIC is working towards a quick and thorough resolution to the water issue, and looks forward to welcoming its guests back as soon as possible.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *