Update: Sheraton Atlanta Postpones Reopening; More Cases of Legionnaires’ Disease Reported

In addition to the first death from at least 12 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease 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, the number of probable cases of Legionnaires’ disease have increased yet again to 63 in what has been called an “outbreak” by both the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Fulton County Board of Health.

Update: Sheraton Atlanta Postpones Reopening; More Cases of Legionnaires’ Disease Reported

Additionally, the reopening of the hotel property will be delayed until at least Wednesday, August 14, 2019, according to this message which was posted at the official Facebook account of Sheraton Atlanta Hotel – Downtown by Ken Peduzzi, who is the general manager of the hotel property:

On behalf of everyone at Sheraton Atlanta, I offer our deepest sympathies to all of those affected by the Legionella outbreak. Please know that our thoughts are with you and your families. 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. 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. At this time, we are awaiting additional testing results and we will complete a review of those results, as will the Georgia Department of Public Health. After final results are known, we will provide another update on both the results and opening date. At this time, the Sheraton Atlanta will remain closed until at least August 14th.

Guests with reservations prior to August 15th will be contacted by hotel representatives today, who will assist them with rebooking at a nearby hotel. For reservations booked directly via a Marriott channel, one can also cancel at Marriott.com or via the Marriott Bonvoy mobile app and Marriott agents will assist with rebooking.

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.

The outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Atlanta is now the largest ever in the state of Georgia.

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 — despite the latest announcement that the hotel property will be closed until at least Wednesday, August 14, 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.

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.

Summary

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 rooms cannot be reserved at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel property until at least Monday, September 2, 2019.

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


 

One thought on “Update: Sheraton Atlanta Postpones Reopening; More Cases of Legionnaires’ Disease Reported”

  1. TheT1zz says:

    There are no dates available until Sept 2 because the hotel is sold out for Dragon Con.

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