The source of a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that has infected three guests at Meadowbrook Inn & Suites in Blowing Rock, North Carolina has not yet been identified, according to the Appalachian District Health Department (AppHealthCare). The health department has released a public health advisory to alert visitors to the mountain resort community about this recent outbreak.
According to this advisory, the three victims all visited the 62-room hotel, located one block from central Blowing Rock, between April 15 and June 15. Each had stayed at the hotel within the 2- to 10-day incubation period in which Legionella bacteria, once inhaled or aspirated into one’s body, develops into full-blown Legionnaires’ disease. All three people were hospitalized, treated, and are now recovering.
Management of the Meadowbrook Inn and Suites was notified by AppHealthCare on June 13th that three of their guests had contracted the potentially fatal illness. Initial in-house testing of the hotel’s hot tub for Legionella bacteria produced negative results; additional environmental samples have been sent to a specialized lab for further testing. Results are forthcoming.
In response to the outbreak, Meadowbrook Inn immediately notified all guests who had stayed at the hotel between April 15th and June 15th. They have also set up a hotline to address questions concerning the outbreak. The hotline number is: (828) 295-4301, ext. 804.
AppHealthCare, in addition to warning the public of the possible exposure of Meadowbrook Inn’s guests and employees to the Legionella pneumonia bacteria, also recommends to clinicians that they consider testing patients for Legionnaires’ disease if they, from April 15th through the current date, present with a “clinically compatible illness” such as pneumonia. Tests for Legionnaires’ disease include a Legionella urinary antigen test and a culture of lower respiratory secretions on selective media. Should such tests reveal that the patients have contracted Legionellosis, these samples will be compared to environmental samples from potential sources of the exposure (such as the Meadowbrook Inn) in order to see if there is a common strain found both at an environmental source and in a patient.
Within hotel environments, common sources of Legionella contamination include hot tub / spas, cooling towers, and heating / cooling systems. The bacteria can also proliferate in and be spread by the vapor rising from architectural water features like fountains.
The initial symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease – high fever cough, shortness of breath, confusion, headaches, diarrhea, nausea, and / or muscle aches – can swiftly develop into a severe pneumonia requiring hospitalization. Once contracted, Legionnaires’ disease is particularly dangerous for people over 50, smokers, those with respiratory illness, cancer, diabetes, or HIV, and those with compromised / weakened immune systems.