Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD) officials have confirmed a sixth case of Legionnaires’ disease at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott in Round Rock, TX, a suburb of Austin, according to multiple news reports.

The infected individual was a recent guest of the hotel and is currently hospitalized, according to a WCCHD spokesperson.

Investigators also are studying reports from 20 other hotel guests who were sickened with respiratory illnesses, either during their stay or after they got home. Legionnaires’ disease is often underdiagnosed due to symptoms matching other common illnesses, which is why investigators will take a closer look at each case.

Tests from six water samples from the hotel’s swimming pool and hot tub all contained DNA of the Legionella bacteria, which causes the disease. Five of the individuals diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease either used the pool or hot tub or sat or walked near it, the spokesperson said.

The hotel – located at 2960 Hoppe Trail, just off of Old Settler’s Boulevard and I-35 – was temporarily closed October 4 while experts remediated the facility.

2nd Texas Marriott with Legionnaires’ issues

In August, the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District issued a control order to the Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott Waco North in Lacy Lakeview, a suburb of Waco, after a fourth case of Legionnaires’ disease was confirmed at the hotel since October 2016.

In cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Texas Department of State Health Services, the health district required the Fairfield Inn to implement the following three actions immediately to comply with the control order:

  • Hire a qualified consultant to assist with the development and implementation of a water maintenance plan
  • Maintain water temperature at 140 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Notify all guest of the risks of Legionnaires’ disease.

How does one contract Legionnaires’ disease? 

Legionellosis is a respiratory disease caused by Legionella bacteria. Sometimes the bacteria cause a serious type of pneumonia (lung infection) called Legionnaires’ disease. The bacteria also can cause a less serious infection called Pontiac fever, which has symptoms similar to a mild case of the flu.

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments. Outbreaks have been linked to a range of sources, such as:

  • water systems like those used in hotels, hospitals, and nursing homes
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • swimming pools
  • showers and faucets
  • cooling towers in air conditioning systems
  • hot water tanks and heaters
  • large plumbing systems
  • decorative fountains
  • mist machines
  • equipment used in physical therapy.

What are the symptoms of Legionnaires’?

The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease look like other forms of pneumonia or even the flu, which is why so many cases go unreported every year. Early symptoms can include the following:

  • chills
  • fever (potentially 104 degrees or higher)
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches.

After the first few days of the disease presenting, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • chest pain when breathing (called pleuritic chest pain, due to inflamed lungs)
  • confusion and agitation
  • a cough, which may bring up mucus and/or blood
  • diarrhea (about one-third of all cases result in gastrointestinal problems)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • shortness of breath.

The incubation period – the amount of time between breathing in the bacteria and developing symptoms – is usually 2 to 10 days after exposure and can be as much as 16 days.