55 ‘probable’ Legionnaires’ cases tied to Sheraton Atlanta; 11 confirmed

55 ‘probable’ Legionnaires’ cases tied to Sheraton Atlanta; 11 confirmed

Source: https://www.ajc.com, July 28, 2019
By: Zachary Hansen and Helena Oliviero

The Legionnaires’ outbreak linked to the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel appears to be much wider than previously thought, with state health officials reporting 55 more “probable cases” Monday.

The Georgia Department of Public Health said the 55 probable cases have not been confirmed in a lab, but involve people with illnesses consistent with Legionnaires’ disease, such as pneumonia. The number of confirmed cases has remained at 11 since Friday.

The Sheraton Atlanta shut down voluntarily about two weeks ago after three guests who had recently visited or stayed at the Courtland Street hotel tested positive for the disease, which can cause a serious lung infection.

No deaths related to the Legionnaires’ outbreak have been reported, according to the DPH.

Until testing is complete, health officials say they can’t be sure that the hotel is the source of the outbreak, though no other locations are being tested for Legionella. The Sheraton Atlanta will remain closed until at least Aug. 11 but may remain closed for several weeks longer, depending on the test results and whether remediation is necessary.

The Department of Public Health and the Fulton County Board of Health investigators have been reviewing hundreds of survey responses from people who stayed or visited the hotel between June 12 and July 15. The survey responses are being analyzed to compare activities at the hotel between people who became sick and those who didn’t. It could take weeks to parse through the surveys, the DPH said.

Investigators have also taken environmental samples for testing and remediation. The first round of environmental samples was collected July 19, and a second round of samples was collected Monday.

Legionella bacteria are found naturally in freshwater environments, like lakes and streams, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But, the agency says, it can become a health concern when it grows and multiplies in human-made building water systems.

In Georgia, there have been close to 90 confirmed cases this year, according to the state Department of Public Health. Last year, there were 180 confirmed cases and nine suspected cases in the state. That’s up from 41 in 2008.

A variety of factors may be contributing to the increase, according to the CDC. More awareness of the disease could mean more reporting. But there’s also improved testing, and an aging population is more susceptible. Another factor could be more Legionella in the environment.

Officials stressed that the disease is not spread from person-to-person contact. The bacterium makes its way into the lungs of most people who become ill after they breathe in mist or steam infected with Legionella.

Those who get the sickest and face complications from Legionnaires’ tend to be over 50, have medical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or diabetes, or have a history of smoking.

About one in 10 people who come down with Legionnaires’ disease will die due to complications from the illness, the CDC said.

Leave a Reply

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