Update: First Death Confirmed From Legionnaires’ Disease Sheraton Atlanta Hotel Cases

The first death from at least 12 cases of Legionnaires’ disease has been confirmed of the guests who stayed at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel property on Courtland Street Northeast between Wednesday, June 12, 2019 and Monday, July 15, 2019; and another 61 cases of Legionnaires’ disease are probable in what is being called an “outbreak” by both the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Fulton County Board of Health.

Update: First Death Confirmed From Legionnaires’ Disease Sheraton Atlanta Hotel Cases

According to this message which was posted by Tom Jones at the official Twitter account of WSB-TV Channel 2 Action News in Atlanta, “The Medical Examiner in DeKalb County has confirmed Cameo Garrett died as a result of Coronary Artery Atherosclerosis aggravated by Legionella Pneumonia.

Garrett reportedly suffered from stomach problems and intestinal problems prior to her death.

Officials are urging anyone who stayed as a guest at the Sheraton hotel property in downtown Atlanta during the aforementioned dates to take a short survey about possible symptoms, which may not only assist those who may have contracted the bacteria to seek help sooner, but will also help with the ongoing investigation.

The number of confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease increased from three, as was first reported in this article here at The Gate on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. The number then had increased to eleven confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease, with another 55 probably cases of Legionnaires’ disease, as was reported in this article here at The Gate on Tuesday, July 30, 2019.

Some guests who had stayed at the hotel property complained about lung problems after a recent convention, which has caused the hotel property to close for business until at least the middle of August. Guests were relocated to other hotel properties once the hotel property was voluntarily closed on Monday, July 15, 2019.

Upon checking for reservations at this hotel property, no rooms are available until at least Monday, September 2, 2019 — even though a previous announcement from the hotel property is that it would be closed until at least Sunday, August 11, 2019 at the earliest…

Click on the image for an enlarged view. Source: Marriott.

…but part of the reason for the unavailability of rooms may also be because the hotel property is one of five hotel properties which have reportedly sold out for Dragon Con, which is scheduled to be in Atlanta this year from Thursday, August 29, 2019 through Monday, September 2, 2019 and draw as many as 80,000 attendees.

The official statement from management of the Sheraton Atlanta hotel property — which was sent to the media — is as follows:

Sheraton Atlanta continues to work closely with public health officials and environmental experts to determine if the hotel is the source of the Legionella outbreak. Testing of the property happened last week, and the hotel has voluntarily moved ahead with precautionary remedial activities while awaiting results.  The health and safety of our employees and guests is our top priority. Sheraton Atlanta remains closed until at least August 11.

Both the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Fulton County Board of Health have been continuously testing the hotel property for environmental samples, which can take up to 14 days; and the results are pending. Combined with epidemiology findings, the environmental sampling results will help to inform as to what are the next steps — such as remediation.

“Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia — lung inflammation usually caused by infection. Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a bacterium known as legionella”, according to this article from the Mayo Clinic. “You can’t catch legionnaires’ disease from person-to-person contact. Instead, most people get legionnaires’ disease from inhaling the bacteria.”

Inhaling the bacteria usually occurs when people breathe in small droplets of water in the air which contain legionella bacteria.

Katse Lodge Bokong Lesotho

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

“Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include fever, chills, cough and shortness of breath”, according to this article from the Georgia Department of Public Health. “Legionnaires’ disease requires treatment with antibiotics, and most cases of this illness are treated successfully. Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick, but people 50 years or older, current or former smokers, people with chronic lung disease or weak immune systems may be at increased risk of getting sick if they are exposed to the bacteria.”

Prevention of Legionnaires’ disease requires meticulous cleaning and disinfection of water systems, pools and spas, as legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment — usually in fresh water. The ideal environment for the bacteria to grow is in warm water; and it and can be found in shower heads and faucets, hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, decorative fountains or plumbing systems in large buildings.

Also, avoiding smoking is the single most important thing you can do to lower your risk of infection, as smoking increases the chances that you will develop Legionnaires’ disease if you’re exposed to legionella bacteria.


Margitsziget Island Budapest fountain

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

If you stayed as a guest at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel property between Wednesday, June 12, 2019 and Monday, July 15, 2019, the Georgia Department of Public Health is requesting that you please complete this survey. Your answers will aid the public health investigation.

Meanwhile, management and employees of hotel and resort properties must continuously take the utmost care in keeping legionella out of water systems in buildings, as that is key to preventing infection.

“About one in 10 people who gets sick from Legionnaires’ disease will die”, according to this article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. “Health departments reported about 6,100 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the United States in 2016. However, because Legionnaires’ disease is likely underdiagnosed, this number may underestimate the true incidence.

In the meantime, seek alternative lodging arrangements if you plan on staying in Atlanta in the near future, as the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel property is closed until at least Monday, September 2, 2019.

Graphic ©2016 and all photographs ©2014 and ©2015 by Brian Cohen.


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