The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ordered the temporary closure of the pool and spa area at the Four Seasons Palm Springs after two people were sickened by Legionnaires’ disease, according to news reports. The Four Seasons is a gated 55-plus active-retirement community.

The two individuals were sickened in January. Both reported using the community pool.

Public health notified the CDC of the illnesses this week and ordered the facility to close the pool and spa area, according to a CDC representative.

Individuals 50 or older are more at risk for Legionnaires’ disease, which is why the CDC is reacting “out of an abundance of caution.” Others that are more susceptible to infection include:

  • smokers
  • heavy alcoholic drinkers
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with compromised immune systems
  • recipients of organ transplants
  • and individuals on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one).

A certified lab will be taking water samples with the CDC staff on hand to oversee the collection. Results of the testing can take up to two weeks to be returned.

The pool and spa are expected to be shuttered until lab results are received.

Unfortunate timing

For residents of Four Seasons Palm Springs, the closure of the pool couldn’t have come at a worse time – daily high temperatures in the Palm Springs area are forecast to hit triple digits for at least the next 10 days.

Four Seasons management has made accommodations for residents to use pool amenities at ARRIVE, a nearby hotel in Palm Springs.

The pool area at Four Seasons at Palm Springs
The pool area at Four Seasons Palm Springs, which has been temporarily closed by the CDC.

Legionnaires’ 101

According to the CDC, an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur each year, but only 5,000 cases are reported because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms. Ten percent of those who become infected will die.

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments.

Where do Legionella live?
Outbreaks have been linked to a number of sources, such as:

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

People also can contract Legionnaires’ disease when they “aspirate” contaminated drinking water – that is, choking or coughing while drinking can cause water to go down the wrong pipe into the lungs. That, however, is a sporadic occurrence.

What are the symptoms?
Legionnaires’ disease, which is also known as legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia, is similar to other types of pneumonia, an infection of the air sacs in one or both lungs that can produce fluid in the lungs. Legionnaires’ symptoms can resemble flu-like symptoms in the following forms:

  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing
  • high fever
  • muscle aches and pains
  • headaches
  • gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.