Water testing of the pool and spa area at Four Seasons Palm Springs returned positive results for Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease.
The tests linked the pool’s bacteria to the same strain of Legionella that sickened two community residents with Legionnaires’ disease in January.
Environmental testing was ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after it learned in June of the two resident’s illnesses. The only commonality between the two infected people was that both had used the pool area.
Four Seasons management was hopeful that the 55-plus active-retirement community’s common areas could be reopened in time for the July 4th holiday, but the closure remains in effect until cleared by the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health (REHS).
“Our department is requiring the pools and spas to remain closed while the Four Seasons works with the remediation company in disinfecting areas/systems,” Dottie Merki, REHS program chief, wrote in an e-mail.
With the pool returning positive results for Legionella, residents, employees and visitors to Four Seasons Palm Springs exhibiting pneumonia- or flu-like symptoms (see the list of symptoms below) should seek immediate medical attention from their health-care provider.
Still no relief from the heat
Residents use the pool and spa areas as a source of temporary solace and comfort from the heat. Daily high temperatures in the Palm Springs area are forecast to hit triple digits throughout July, so the continued closure, which started in late June, remains an inconvenience.
Four Seasons management has made accommodations for residents to use pool amenities at ARRIVE, a nearby hotel in Palm Springs.
Legionnaires’ disease – also known as legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of lung infection. According to the CDC, an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur yearly in the United States, but only 5,000 cases are reported because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.
Ten percent of people who become infected with Legionnaires’ disease will die from the infection.
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:
- large plumbing systems
- showers and faucets
- hot-water tanks and heaters
- swimming pools
- hot tubs and whirlpools
- decorative fountains
- mist machines and hand-held sprayers
- equipment used in physical therapy
- water systems, such as those used in hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
- the cooling towers of air conditioning systems.
Legionnaires’ disease is similar to other types of pneumonia. Symptoms can even resemble those of flu, which is why it often goes under-reported.
- shortness of breath
- muscle aches
- gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Who is most at risk?
Anyone can become ill from Legionella, but those most susceptible to infection include:
- people 50 years of age or older
- smokers, both current and former
- heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
- people with chronic lung disease
- people with compromised immune systems
- recipients of organ transplants
- individuals who are on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one).