ATLANTA — Three more people have tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease at downtown’s Sheraton Atlanta hotel, health officials said Wednesday afternoon, bringing the total to six. While the Georgia Department of Public Health said it doesn’t know if the guests contract the disease while actually staying at the hotel, hotel officials have closed the facility until the exact cause can be determined.
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“The health and safety of our guests is our greatest priority,” said hotel general manager Ken Peduzzi. “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.”
On Monday, the Georgia Department of Public Health said, “the Sheraton Atlanta voluntarily decided to temporarily close until the source of the Legionella is located and remediation is complete.”
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia – lung infection – caused by a bacteria called Legionella. People can get Legionnaires’ disease by breathing in aerosolized, or small droplets of water containing Legionella bacteria.
Legionella bacteria occur naturally in the environment. Water containing Legionella can be aerosolized through cooling towers, showers, hot tubs and decorative fountains, and can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a serious lung infection (pneumonia) when inhaled. Legionnaires’ disease is not passed from person to person. Outbreaks are most commonly associated with buildings or structures that have complex water systems like hotels, hospitals, long-term care facilities and cruise ships. The bacteria can become a health concern when they grow and spread in human-made water systems. Most healthy people do not get Legionnaires’ disease after being exposed to Legionella bacteria.
In late May, the New Jersey Department of Health identified a cluster of 22 Legionnaires’ disease cases in New Jersey. Five deaths have been reported. Last month, the Illinois Department of Public Health began investigating four cases of Legionnaires’ disease in people who were at an Oak Law, Illinois medical center.