ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Health officials said they are investigating reported cases of Legionnaires' disease after a visit to Sheraton Hotel Atlanta, prompting a voluntary shut down of the hotel as a precaution while staff investigate the health reports.
The Georgia Department of Public Health released the following statement Monday:
“Late this afternoon the Sheraton Atlanta voluntarily decided to temporarily close until the source of the Legionella is located and remediation is complete. Questions about their decision to close and relocation of guests should be directed to the Sheraton Atlanta.”
State health officials are working with the Fulton County Board of Health and hotel staff to find the source.
Numerous hotel guests were seen looking for rides or walking with their luggage outside the hotel. Some said staff members disclosed a possible outbreak of the bacteria, while others said staff remained silent when questioned.
"There's a potential disease outbreak and nobody bothered to let us know?" said a concerned mother with children and pets.
"They said just to leave the hotel," said another guest, who said workers wouldn't tell him anything.
Some guests said the staff relocated them elsewhere, while others said they had to pay for and find a different place to stay.
The hotel later told FOX 5 that all guests would be refunded.
Ken Peduzzi, General Manager of Sheraton Atlanta sent the following statement to FOX 5 News Monday evening:
"The health and safety of our guests is our greatest priority. We are working closely with public health officials and outside experts to conduct testing to determine if Legionella is present at the hotel. As a result, out of an abundance of caution we have made the decision to close the hotel while we await the results. The Sheraton Atlanta is currently working to relocate its guests to nearby hotels. It is also reaching out to guests with upcoming reservations to assist in directing them to other nearby hotels. Guests whose reservations have been canceled will receive a full refund. "
Peduzzi told FOX 5 News while they took the steps to close the hotel out of an abundance of extreme caution, there is no direct evidence Legionella bacteria was present at the hotel.
The news comes about 44 days before the start of one of the biggest conventions in Atlanta. Dragon Con starts August 29th and runs through Labor Day. It usually attracts more than 80,000 visitors, some who booked rooms at the Sheraton Atlanta in addition to the four other nearby host hotels. For the past several years, the hotel has been used as the staging ground for participants to pick up their access badges to the convention, meaning nearly every visitor to the convention passes through the hotel each of those years.
Dragon Con organizers released the following statement on Monday evening:
“The safety of our fans is the first priority for Dragon Con. We are currently working with Sheraton management to understand the situation, the solutions, and the timeframes involved.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Legionnaires' Disease manifests as a severe form of pneumonia and an inflammation of the lungs, usually caused by the Legionella bacteria. While it can be caught outside, it thrives in water supplies such as pools, hot tubs, air conditioners, mist sprayers, and more. It is treated with antibiotics.