Update, Oct. 6
A fifth case of Legionnaires’ disease was confirmed on Friday, according to news reports. A fourth guest was taken to the hospital earlier this week, and it was learned that the guest was ill with Legionnaires’ disease.

Original post, Oct. 6
The Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD) has ordered the closure of the SpringHill Suites by Marriott hotel in Round Rock, TX, after three guests and an employee contracted Legionnaires’ disease, multiple news outlets are reporting.

The three guests who were infected with Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, were guests at the hotel between June and September. All three have recovered.

All had been in the hotel’s hot tub or sat near the area, and it is believed they breathed in contaminated water in the form of mist created by the hot tub.

The hotel employee, who was diagnosed and hospitalized with the disease Oct. 3, had worked at the facility for only one week but walked through the area where the hot tub is located several times.

Investigators have taken samples from the hotel’s water systems, and test results are expected back within two weeks.

The hotel voluntarily closed at 5 p.m. Oct. 4.

“The hotel anticipates it will remain closed until the remediation can be fully completed and the property clears all inspections,” according to a statement released by SpringHill Suites.

Hotel officials estimate that the remediation process and testing will take approximately three weeks. They said they hope to reopen by the end of October.

“If anybody has stayed at (that location) from mid-September until yesterday (Oct. 4), they need to be on the lookout for pneumonia or flu-like symptoms,” a WCCHD spokesperson said. “If they have those symptoms, they need to seek medical help immediately.”

The four-story extended-stay hotel, located at 2960 Hoppe Trail in a suburb of Austin, is 17 years old and has 104 rooms. The hotel relocated all current guests to nearby hotels and is contacting individuals with existing reservations to assist them in changing their accommodations.

The hot tub area is the likely source of four cases of Legionnaires' disease at SpringHill Suites.
The hot tub area is the likely source of four cases of Legionnaires’ disease at SpringHill Suites.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur in the United States on a yearly basis. However, only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s non-specific signs and symptoms.

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which thrive in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments, such as hot tubs, spas, cooling towers and air-conditioning systems, to name a few.

What are the symptoms?

Legionnaires’ disease is very similar to other types of pneumonia (lung infection), or even the flu, which is why so many cases go unreported every year. Early symptoms may exhibit in the following forms:

  • chills
  • fever
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches.

After the first few days, symptoms can worsen and include:

  • chest pain when breathing
  • 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 two weeks.

Complications of Legionnaires’ disease

After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is usually necessary. In the most severe cases, complications can include respiratory failure, kidney failure, septic shock, or even death.

Anyone can get the disease, but those at the greatest risk of infection include:

  • people 50 or older
  • smokers (current or former)
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with weakened immune systems.