A 50-year-old California man filed the first lawsuit against Ceasars Entertainment Corp. in connection with a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in June at the Rio Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, according to news reports.

Christopher Moncado of Long Beach filed suit Tuesday in Nevada’s Clark County District Court. Moncado has been on disability since contracting the disease while a guest at the hotel. He has suffered from shortness of breath, weakness, reduced energy, disturbed sleep, and depression. Moncado sent his medical records and bills to Caesars, but they have neither offered a settlement nor responded, according to his attorney.

The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) tested the Rio’s water supply and confirmed Legionella bacteria – which is the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease – existed in the system. The SNHD also confirmed that the June outbreak was linked to Moncado’s case.

The outbreak has had seven confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease, 30 suspected cases of Legionnaires’, and 60 suspected cases of Pontiac fever, which is a flu-like illness caused by Legionella, according to the SNHD. The investigation remains open.

What is Legionnaires’ disease? 

Legionnaires’ disease – also called Legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – 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 the Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur each year, but only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms, and 10 percent of those will die from the infection.

How do you catch Legionnaires’ disease? 

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

What are complications of Legionnaires’ disease?

After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is often necessary. In the most severe cases of Legionnaires’ disease, 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 years old or older
  • smokers (current or former)
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema)
  • people with weakened immune systems (those suffering from diseases such as diabetes, cancer, kidney failure, or infected with HIV)
  • organ-transplant recipients (kidney, heart, etc.)
  • individuals following certain drug protocols (for instance, corticosteroids)

Even relatively healthy individuals have been known to contract the disease.