US Outbreak Timely Warning to Accommodation Providers

The Las Vegas luxury hotel Aria Resorts and Casino has been associated with six cases of the rare Legionnaires’ disease, health officials confirmed on Friday.

The luxury resort has previously been linked with the disease in 2009 but tests conducted in the hotel that time showed no detectable levels.

The hotel says the guests in question stayed there when there were elevated levels of Legionella bacteria in its water supply. It is reported that four guests of the hotel were treated for the disease but a lot more may have been exposed from between June 21 to July 4.

The disease had been found in a hot tub at the Playboy mansion, where 123 people were reported with fevers and 69 became ill in February.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that between 8,000 and 18,000 Americans are hospitalised with Legionnaires’ disease every year. The disease tends to occur during the summer and early autumn and it has a fatality rate in the US of between 5% to 30%.

In early April, a woman died from the disease in Western Sydney.

Last June, the illness claimed the life of a Melbourne man, who died after being infected in a cluster of three cases. The disease was found in two contaminated cooling towers on top of low-rise office buildings in Doncaster, in Melbourne’s east.

The two other affected men recovered.


… Symptoms are usually similar to a severe ‘flu’ infection

Twenty-four cases, including one death, were reported in March and April this year, compared to eight during the same period in 2010, according to NSW Health.

“This year, we are seeing something that is much higher than we would normally expect,” said Dr Jeremy McAnulty, NSW Health’s director of health protection.

Three Western Australians and two Victorians who holidayed in Bali during December were also diagnosed with severe pneumonia due to infection with the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease. There have now been 10 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Australians associated with this area in Kuta since August 2010; six from Western Australia.

Caused by gram-negative Legionella bacteria, the disease acquired its name in July 1976 when an outbreak of pneumonia occurred among people attending a convention of the American Legion at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia.

Legionnaires’ disease (legionellosis) is a serious form of pneumonia caused by the bacteria legionella. Although not all cases of Legionnaires’ disease are severe, up to 10% of cases can be fatal in Australia.

There are over 40 strains of legionella bacteria but only a few cause disease in humans. The strains that are most commonly associated with human disease are pneumophila and longbeachae. Symptoms are usually similar to a severe ‘flu’ infection and include: fever; headache (often severe); shortness of breath; muscle aches and pains and sometimes a dry cough. From the time of infection with legionella bacteria, it takes between two and 10 days for symptoms to appear. In most cases, symptoms begin after five or six days.

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