ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - State and county health officials have started a second round of environmental testing Monday at a downtown Atlanta hotel after a suspected Legionella outbreak
The Sheraton Atlanta Hotel has been closed since July 14 when the first cases of Legionnaires’ disease were confirmed. As of Monday, there have been 11 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease and 55 probable cases. There have been no deaths associated with this outbreak.
Probable cases are people who stayed at the hotel between June 12 and July 15 and have exhibited symptoms, especially those with a severe illness like pneumonia. Because of the time it takes to test each individual, it could take weeks to know for sure the full extent of the outbreak.
A statement sent to FOX 5 News from the Georgia Department of Public Health read in part:
“Probable cases are people who had illness consistent with Legionnaires’ disease, including pneumonia diagnosed by a clinician or chest X-ray, but without laboratory confirmation. The number of probable cases can change based on additional testing and lab results.
“Since the first cases of Legionnaires’ disease were confirmed two weeks ago, epidemiologists from DPH and FCBOH have been reviewing hundreds of survey responses from individuals who stayed at or visited the Sheraton Atlanta between June 12 and July 15, 2019. The surveys help identify people who may have been ill, especially those with severe illness like pneumonia. The survey responses are also analyzed to compare activities at the hotel between the people who did become sick and the people who did not. As additional cases are identified, these data are continuously updated and analyzed. This is a standard process for public health outbreak investigations and can take weeks to complete as the investigation progresses.”
In the meantime, health officials are working with the hotel Atlanta on sampling, testing, and remediation. The second round of tests was taken Monday and will take up to 14 days for results. The first set was taken on July 19. Those results still have not been made available.
The Georgia Department of Public Health released the following statement regarding Legionnaires’ disease:
“Legionnaires’ disease is a very serious type of pneumonia (lung infection) caused by Legionella bacteria. People can get Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain Legionella. Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include fever, chills, cough and shortness of breath.
“Legionnaires’ disease requires treatment with antibiotics, and most cases of this illness are treated successfully. Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick, but people 50 years or older, current or former smokers, people with chronic lung disease or weak immune systems may be at increased risk of getting sick if they are exposed to the bacteria.
“Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in fresh water. The bacteria grow best in warm water and can be found in shower heads and faucets, hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, decorative fountains or plumbing systems in large buildings.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of people with Legionnaires' disease grew by nearly 4 times from 2000–2014. About 6,100 cases of Legionnaires' disease were reported in the United States in 2016. In Georgia, 189 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported in 2018, and 172 cases in 2017.”
The Sheraton is one of the five host hotels for Dragon Con, the largest multimedia pop-culture convention in the United States which draws about 80,000 visitors annually to Atlanta’s hotel district. The hotel serves as the registration point for members as well fills up its rooms with guests attending the convention. Both hotel management and Dragon Con officials are hopeful the hotel will be back in time for the big event.