The Sheraton Atlanta hotel was evacuated on July 15 and has remained closed since as the CDC is investigating 75 possible cases of Legionnaires disease including one death. Often likened to a severe form of pneumonia, Legionnaires is particularly deadly for the elderly, young and those with compromised immune systems. Infection is through exposure to contaminated water droplets containing the bacteria. It is not contagious.
Infectious disease expert Dr William Schaffner said “This is one of those bugs that lives out in the environment amongst us and on occasion it gets into a man-made water system, contaminates it, and it can be very hard to get rid of when that happens.”
The hotel has since issued a statement saying “a thorough cleaning of the hotel’s entire water distribution system has been completed…including…scrubbing and chlorination.” Though a lawsuit is currently pending against the hotel for negligence by guests who may have been affected by the disease.
Legionnaires got it name after an outbreak in 1976 at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia which killed 29.
This should serve as a way up call that our water system is an attack vector by bad actors. We should always have contingency plans and always have a system in place to protect one of our key basic needs.
Source: CBS News/ Photo Janice Haney Carr, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention