The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) has confirmed eight cases of Legionnaires’ disease, including two deaths, in Chicago. The source of the outbreak is the JW Marriott Hotel located on Adams Street in downtown.
In response to the outbreak, the hotel has drained its pool, hot tub, and fountain. Authorities stated that the outbreak is over and that there is no risk of infection for current guests or employees.
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by the bacterium Legionella and is a type of pneumonia, or infection of the lungs. The bacteria typically grow in warm water sources, such as hot tubs, cooling towers, or large plumbing or air conditioning systems. People are infected with the disease when they inhale droplets of water that contain the bacteria. The disease is not transmissible from person to person.
Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease resemble those of pneumonia, including chills, fever, muscle aches. One of the two victims was originally believed to have died of pneumonia, but his autopsy confirmed infection with Legionella bacteria. Suspicion of a possible outbreak at the hotel began when employees began presenting pneumonia-like symptoms.
Hotel staff have been cooperating with the CDPH’s investigation. They have contacted the majority of the 8500 guests who visited the hotel between July 16 and August 15, the time during which exposure likely occurred. A press release also urges any guests who experience flu-like symptoms to visit a health provider.
Each year, between 8000 and 18000 Americans are hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease. People who currently or formerly smoke(d), or those with chronic lung diseases are at greatest risk of infection with Legionnaires’. While antibiotics are usually an effective treatment, the illness kills five to thirty percent of cases.
This outbreak follows another earlier this week in Quebec City, where over a hundred have been diagnosed and eight have died.