The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services states that a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak occurred at the Best Western on the River Hotel in Hannibal. Three people staying at that hotel over the past eight months contracted the illness, and one person died.
The popular hotel was shut down in November when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took samples. Four rooms tested positive for the Legionella bacteria. Officials do not know what caused the outbreak.
The hotel is in two parts. One is brand new, and the other is older. Older buildings can be problematic for Legionella bacteria. The older structure is still closed.
The Legionella bacteria lives in water systems, such as plumbing, heating and cooling systems, cooling towers, hot tubs, shower heads, humidifiers, and in fountains and large water tanks. It is released in mist. When people breathe in the bacteria, they can develop Legionnaires’, which is a pneumonia-like illness.
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include fever, cough, and respiratory distress that gets progressively worse. Other symptom include chills, problems with the kidneys, and GI symptoms.
Those most at risk for contracting Legionnaires’ Disease include people over the age of 50, current or former smokers, those with chronic lung diseases such as COPD or emphysema, and people with a weak immune system. Anyone suffering from a chronic illness such as cancer or kidney failure are also at higher risk. The fatality rate of this illness is about 30%.
There have been several Legionnaires’ outbreaks in this country in the last few months. In October, an outbreak at the San Quentin State Prison in California sickened at least 13 inmates, and 80 others were diagnosed with pneumonia. Two outbreaks occurred in the Bronx in New York City this summer. The first was linked to the Opera House Hotel in the South Bronx that sickened 124 people and killed twelve. The second, also in the South Bronx, was in Morris Park; at least thirteen people were sickened in that outbreak and one person died. And a serious outbreak occurred at the Quincy Veterans’ Home in Illinois sickened 54 people. Thirteen people died in that outbreak.
The outbreak in New York City led to the Governor calling for inspections of all cooling towers in the state. Those towers are on the top of large buildings. These are heat exchangers, transferring heat from the water and removing it from the building.
Legionnaires’ Disease can be treated with antibiotics, but the best outcome occurs when the illness is diagnosed early. Unfortunately, unless there are several people who live in the same building or area who become ill with pneumonia-like symptoms at the same time, the test for the Legionella bacteria is not conducted.