Health officials: 5 confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease after staying at downtown Atlanta hotel

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Georgia health officials said Tuesday the number of cases of people who have contracted Legionnaires' disease during their stay at a downtown Atlanta hotel has risen to five.

Health officials confirmed the five cases but stressed that while each patient stayed at Sheraton Atlanta hotel, they do not yet have evidence directly linking the hotel as the source.

“It may not be the Sheraton, but this could happen anywhere,” said Dr. Zandraetta Tims-Cook, infectious disease specialist.

Hotel management was not taking any chances Monday. They immediately closed the door to new guests and relocated all 450 current guests to other hotels. Guests with reservation were refunded their deposit and given help rebooking at other downtown hotels.

The doors of Sheraton Atlanta remained closed Tuesday as health officials took samples throughout the hotel and the staff started to perform preventative maintenance as a precaution.

“People are exposed not through person-to-person contact, but through water systems,” said Dr. Tims-Cook.

State health officials are working with the Fulton County Board of Health and hotel staff to find the source of the illness which often manifests as flu-like symptoms, but unlike the flu, can be treated with antibiotics. Those sources could be pools, hot tubs, air conditions, mist sprayers, or the water supply itself.

Dr. Tims-Cook praised the hotel’s management calling their actions the right thing to do in this situation.

“Removing people from the point of the source,” the doctor said about the best way to prevent the spread.

The internet was buzzing with this news Monday due to the Sheraton’s role in the yearly Dragon Con which takes place Labor Day weekend. The annual event draws 80,000 visitors, all who pass through the Sheraton Atlanta to register. Dragon Con organizers said they are working with the host hotel’s management to “understand the situation, the solutions, and the timeframes involved.”

All parties are optimistic the host hotel will be back in full operation by Aug. 29.

RELATED: Health officials investigate reports of Legionnaires' disease at Sheraton Atlanta