Some guests say N.H. hotel tied to Legionnaires’ did not reveal outbreak

Some guests say N.H. hotel tied to Legionnaires’ did not reveal outbreak

Source: The Boston Globe, September 4, 2018
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One day after state health officials said that nine people who had stayed at the Sands Resort since July had contracted Legionnaires’ disease, the hotel remained open Monday with its neon “no vacancy” sign lit, and several guests said hotel staff had not informed them of the outbreak.

Legionella, the bacteria that causes this form of pneumonia, was detected last week in the hotel’s hot tub, water heater, an outdoor shower hose, and faucets or shower heads of three rooms, according to a letter issued Sunday by Jeffrey A. Meyers, commissioner of New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services.

The cases connected to the resort are among 14 known infections in the quintessential New England beach town. An elderly person died from the disease, and 12 people have been hospitalized, officials have said.

The resort’s management said in a statement Monday that they had “cooperated fully with local, state, and federal authorities” and contracted with “an environmental and occupational health and safety consulting firm” that would have representatives on site by Wednesday and would flush out the hotel’s water system by Friday.

Management said that while nine of those infected with Legionnaires’ disease had stayed at the hotel, there is no proof yet that they had been exposed to the bacteria while there. The statement also said the hotel’s hot tub is drained, thoroughly cleaned, and refilled with fresh water two to three times each week.

Meyers ordered the hotel to notify guests of the outbreak and to immediately post signs “at all entries to the premises and at the registration desk.”

At the hotel Monday, a man who identified himself as the manager but declined to give his name said all guests had been notified.

Information about the outbreak was posted at the resort’s front desk, but no signs were visible on the building’s exterior, and guests who spoke to reporters, including some who had checked in Sunday, said the staff had not informed them.

Two guests said they had seen signs inside the building, but a half-dozen others said they had not.

“There’s just signs saying, you know, ‘Warning,’ ” said Tiffany Hamilton, 31, who added that the notices were posted “everywhere” but she could not recall the exact wording.

Reporters were not allowed inside the hotel.

The hotel’s management, in response to a reporter’s question about notifying guests, said it had fully complied with all instructions from the state Department of Environmental Services, Department of Health and Human Services, and local police. “Anyone who claims otherwise should contact those organizations,” the management said in an e-mail.

Hamilton, who was visiting from Clearwater, Fla., said she had booked a room for herself, her fiancé, and her two children through the end of the month and had no intention of leaving.

“They would close the whole place down if there was something wrong,” she said.

Another guest, who gave only his first name, Freddie, said he had seen signs on the first and second floors but hotel staff had not spoken to him about the outbreak.

“We were aware. We used Google,” he said.

Some guests said they had learned of the Legionnaires’ diagnoses from news reports. Several said a sign at the hot tub said only that it was “closed until further notice,” with no mention of the outbreak.

Health and Human Services officials could not be reached for comment on Labor Day.

While they investigated the outbreak, state authorities closed the hot tub at the Sands and at the nearby Harris Sea Ranch Motel last month because of the risk of spreading bacteria.

Legionnaires’ disease is contracted by inhaling mist or small drops of water contaminated with Legionella bacteria. It cannot be spread by drinking contaminated water or through person-to-person contact. Symptoms include headaches, fever, muscle aches, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Most healthy people who are exposed to the bacteria won’t contract the disease, but about 1 in 10 who get the infection die from it, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can be treated with antibiotics and often requires hospitalization.

Another guest, Felix Bertrand, said he had been at the hotel four days and had avoided showering there since learning of the outbreak.

“We went surfing, and now we stink. We brushed our teeth with this water and we didn’t know,” said Bertrand, who is visiting from France.

He added that he had seen a sign Monday morning saying the hot tub was closed but assumed it was because of the holiday.

Nick Corcoran, another guest, said he was troubled that resort staff hadn’t told him or his wife, Laurie Corcoran, about the outbreak.

“It’s scary,” he said. “It’s life-threatening, scary stuff. It’s gross.”

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