Sick with Legionnaires?
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Elliot Olsen has regained millions for people injured by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, please call Elliot at (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.


Update, July 25: The Georgia Department of Health confirmed yet another case of Legionnaires’ disease in people who recently stayed at or visited the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, increasing the outbreak total to 10. The latest outbreak update comes only two days after health officials confirmed three additional cases.

The Sheraton Atlanta Hotel closed its doors on July 15, when officials announced the first three illnesses. The hotel is scheduled to stay closed through at least Aug. 11 as testing continues in an effort to pinpoint the source.

Original post, July 24: As the number of people infected with Legionnaires’ disease tripled at the downtown Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, hotel officials announced the hotel would remain closed for about three weeks.

When the outbreak first was announced July 15, there were three confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease, a sometimes-deadly respiratory illness. By July 19, however, the count had risen to nine. The only commonality between the nine victims is that all had been guests at the Sheraton Atlanta hotel.

Hotel management said the hotel would be closed to guests until at least August 11, as the building undergoes remediation (cleaning and disinfection) and environmental testing. More than 450 guests were relocated to other hotels, and future reservations were canceled or rebooked.

Sheraton Atlanta Hotel: investigation continues

Sheraton Atlanta general manager Ken Peduzzi confirmed that the Sheraton has hired environmental consultants to test the water in the pool, hot tub, water fountain, chillers, and other areas in the hotel.

“At this time, it remains unknown if the source of the exposure is located within the hotel,” Peduzzi was quoted in an e-mailed statement.

State and county health officials also collected samples from various areas throughout the hotel, but a definitive cause for the illnesses has not been discovered.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, there have been close to 90 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the state this year. Last year, there were 180 confirmed cases, a significant increase from 41 in 2008.

Sheraton Atlanta Hotel: oversight lacking

Hospitals and nursing homes are required to bolster oversight of building water systems and medical equipment that could expose patients to harmful Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease. There is, however, little regulatory oversight of hotels, apartments, and other non-medical buildings.

“There’s not a lot of people checking up on a hotel, a condominium or a large building,” said Elliott Olsen, who has filed Legionnaires lawsuits on behalf of patients and their families for more than two decades. “I am not aware of any oversight really at any level.”

Sheraton Atlanta Hotel: Legionnaires info

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 every year. However, only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms.

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor.

Numerous tests can be done
According to the Mayo Clinic, to help identify the presence of Legionella quickly, your doctor may use a test that checks your urine for Legionella antigens — foreign substances that trigger an immune system response. You may also have undergo one or more of the following:

  • blood tests
  • chest X-ray, which doesn’t confirm Legionnaires’ disease but can show the extent of infection in your lungs
  • tests on a sample of your sputum or lung tissue
  • CT scan of your brain or a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) if you have neurological symptoms such as confusion or trouble concentrating

Symptoms are numerous
Legionnaires’ disease is not contagious – that is, it cannot be passed from person to person. It usually develops two to 10 days after exposure to Legionella. It frequently begins with the following symptoms:

  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • chills
  • fever, which can be 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

By the second or third day, other signs and symptoms develop, including:

  • cough, which can bring up mucus and sometimes blood
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pains
  • gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • confusion and other mental changes.

Although Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and other parts of the body, including the heart.

High-risk categories
Anyone can get the disease, but those at the most significant 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.

Treated with antibiotics
Legionnaires’ disease requires treatment with antibiotics (medicines that kill bacteria in the body), and most cases of this illness can be treated successfully. However, if not diagnosed early, it can lead to severe complications.

Numerous complications
After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is often necessary. In the most severe cases, complications can occur; they include:

  • Respiratory failure: caused by changes to the lung tissue, or oxygen loss in arteries supplying the lungs.
  • Septic shock: this can occur when Legionella produce toxins that enter the bloodstream and cause a drop in blood pressure, leading to the loss of adequate blood supply to the organs.
  • Kidney failure: those same Legionella toxins can damage the kidneys’ ability to eliminate waste from the blood, resulting in kidney failure.
  • Endocarditis: an infection of the inner lining of the heart that can affect the ability of the heart to maintain adequate blood flow through the body.
  • Pericarditis: swelling of the pericardium, which is the primary membrane around the heart. This can also affect the ability of the heart to circulate blood throughout the body.