A July outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at an Atlanta Hotel has killed one person and public health officials are now warning that the disease is a nationwide problem.
The outbreak occurred at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, which evacuated all of its guests on July 15 and closed its doors. The hotel remains closed.
MORE Impacting Travel
All Flights Canceled at Hong Kong Airport Due to Protests
US Government Updates Travel Warning for Hong Kong
Countries Issue Travel Warnings About US After Recent…
At the time of the evacuation, 49-year-old Cameo Garrett had already died. A subsequent autopsy revealed that Garrett had both coronary issues and Legionnaires’ disease. Garrett had attended a conference at the Sheraton the week before she died, according to CBS This Morning.
About one dozen additional hotel guests subsequently tested positive for Legionnaires, a bacteria that can cause severe pneumonia.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia or lung inflammation typically caused by infection. It is contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets containing the legionella bacteria.
The health crisis may be far broader than just one dozen other Atlanta hotel guests. According to a lawsuit filed Monday, hundreds more people may have been exposed.
“This is one of those bugs that lives out in the environment amongst us and on occasion it gets into a man-made water system, contaminates it, and it can be very hard to get rid of when that happens,” infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner told CBS This Morning.
CBS reported that Georgia health officials are now investigating 75 Legionnaire cases, of which 12 are confirmed and 63 are probable. All of them were Sheraton Atlanta guests.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 10 Legionnaire’s victims will die.
The hotel meanwhile has issued a statement expressing its “deepest sympathies to all those affected” adding “a thorough cleaning of the hotel’s entire water distribution system has been completed, including scrubbing and chlorination.”
Attorney Chris Stewart, who represents 40 of the hotel guests impacted by Legionnaires’, told CBS This Morning that other guests scattered around the country may also have the disease.
“Apologies won’t do it in this situation,” Stewart said, according to CBS This Morning. “This is a massive nationwide problem. People don’t know they’re sick yet with Legionnaires’ disease. I mean we literally get a new client every single day.”
Stewart also estimates that the potential population of exposed people is in the hundreds.
The Sheraton Atlanta has said it will not open until test results show the threat has passed.