ATLANTA, Ga – A reported outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, an extremely rare form of pneumonia, at the Sheraton Hotel in Atlanta is the largest Legionella outbreak in Georgia’s history.
According to Nancy Nydam, a spokeswoman from the Georgia Department of Public Health, there have been 63 probable cases, with one resulting in death. 11 of those cases were confirmed after stays at the Sheraton Hotel between June 12 and July 15.
Cases are considered probable when an individual shows symptoms of the disease but have yet to undergo lab tests to confirm the diagnosis.
The Sheraton Hotel closed its doors on July 16, said Ken Peduzzi, General Manager of the hotel, and will remain closed until at least August 14.
“During our closure, we have been working closely with the Georgia Department of Public Health, Fulton County Board of Health and environmental experts to conduct testing to ensure there is no threat of Legionella infection,” Peduzzi wrote in a statement. “A thorough cleaning of the hotel’s entire water distribution system has been completed as a precautionary measure, including cleaning, scrubbing, and chlorination of all water features.”
Peduzzi said that they were currently awaiting more test results before announcing when they would reopen.
Legionnaires’ disease is an extremely rare form of atypical pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria, commonly found in warm freshwater. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, the bacteria can also be found within showerheads, faucets, hot water tanks, and decorative fountains.
The disease is completely curable with the help of antibiotics, and most who are diagnosed with Legionnaires’ Disease make a full recovery. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in ten people diagnosed with Legionnaires’ Disease will die, and those over the age of 50, current or former smokers, those diagnosed with chronic lung disease, as well as those with weaker immune systems are at a higher risk.