Sheraton Atlanta hotel cleared to reopen after Legionnaires outbreak

13 lab-confirmed cases tied to hotel

By Ryan Prior, CNN
WSB via CNN

ATLANTA - A hotel in downtown Atlanta is reopening its doors to visitors after it closed last month so that health officials could investigate an outbreak of potentially deadly Legionnaires' disease linked to the premises.

The source of the outbreak has been traced to the hotel's cooling tower, the Georgia Department of Public Health now says.

Public health officials also traced the Legionella bacteria to a decorative fountain in the atrium.

In a statement, the agency said remediation to the entire hotel water distribution system, including the cooling tower and decorative fountain has been made and sampling and testing will continue at the hotel.

The Sheraton Atlanta Hotel is open, and a front desk employee told CNN there are already guests staying at the hotel. It was closed for a month, shutting its doors on July 16 and sending guests to nearby hotels, after public health officials linked cases of the disease to the hotel.

Following a complete inspection, the hotel was cleared to open Thursday. It will begin taking additional reservations on Friday.

In a statement Thursday, the hotel said it closed voluntarily on July 15, and for the past month has worked closely with public health officials.

There have been 13 lab-confirmed cases ''of Legionnaires' disease, including one death, and 66 probable cases of Legionnaires' disease related to this outbreak, according to the department.

 

What is Legionnaires' disease?

 

Legionnaires' is a disease that humans can contract after breathing in mist or water droplets that contain the Legionella bacterium, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms can include coughing, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches and headaches, and can begin two to 10 days following exposure to the bacteria.

It usually isn't spread from person to person. Because the bacteria often live in warm water, people usually come down with it after being exposed to faucets, showers, bath tubs, and fountains where the germs may have been.

The CDC says about 1 in 10 human cases prove fatal.

Nationwide, the number of cases has risen 550% since 2000, with 7,500 US cases in 2017. Those statistics are due in part to a true rise in the number of actual cases, but also a rise in reporting cases.

CNN's Ben Tinker, Steve Almasy, Jen Christensen, and Jamiel Lynch contributed to this story.

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