Legionnaires' Disease Outbreak at Atlanta Hotel Leaves 1 Dead, According To State Health Officials

One person has died from a Legionnaires' disease outbreak at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, as of Wednesday.

Nancy Nydam, director of communications at the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH), confirmed the death to Newsweek on Wednesday.

"There are 12 lab-confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease, including one death, and 61 probable cases," as of Wednesday, she added.

Legionnaires' disease is an acute form of pneumonia—an inflammation of the lungs caused by infection—according to the Mayo Clinic.

The source of the outbreak, which affected guests who visited or stayed at the hotel between June 12 and July 15, has not yet been identified. Yet, Legionella pneumophila, a bacterium, is usually the cause of the illness. It may be found in soil and freshwater, but it more commonly infects humans when it multiplies in water systems like hot tubs and air conditioners.

The hotel voluntarily closed on July 15 as a result of the outbreak and will remain so "until the source of the Legionella is located and remediation is complete," state health officials said in a statement.

"You can't catch Legionnaires' disease from person-to-person contact. Instead, most people get Legionnaires' disease from inhaling the bacteria," the Mayo Clinic says.

"Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. However, people at increased risk of getting sick are 50 years or older, current or former smokers, people with chronic lung disease or weak immune systems," state health officials said.

The disease is treatable with antibiotics, and those who are sickened typically recover in full. Symptoms often include fever, chills, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the GDPH.

Every year, there are at least 20 Legionnaires' outbreaks reported—and about 5,000 cases diagnosed nationally—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2018, Georgia saw 189 cases of Legionnaires' disease, the New York Times reported.

According to a CNN report from July 19, the hotel's general manager, Ken Peduzzi, said that "the health and safety of our guests is our greatest priority."

Nydam told Newsweek on Wednesday that GDPH and the Fulton County Board of Health (FCBOH) "are overseeing the sampling and testing being done by the contractor hired by the Sheraton Hotel. That investigation is ongoing."

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Legionnaires' Disease Outbreak at Atlanta Hotel Leaves 1 Dead, According To State Health Officials | U.S.