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3 guests contract Legionnaire’s disease at Loop hotel

The JW Marriott 151 W. Adams where alledgedly three cases Legionnaire's disease was found. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

The JW Marriott at 151 W. Adams where alledgedly, three cases of Legionnaire's disease was found. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 23, 2012 6:16AM

More than 8,000 guests of a downtown hotel are being contacted by city health officials after at least three people staying there contracted Legionnaires’ Disease.

But the Chicago Department of Health says it has identified the source of the disease at the JW Marriott Hotel, 151 W. Adams, and that there is no longer any health risk.

Hotel staff drained the swimming pool, a hot tub and a fountain in the hotel’s foyer last week after learning of the outbreak Aug. 14, Marriott spokesman Jeff Flaherty said.

Three cases of Legionnaires’ — a potentially fatal form of pneumonia — have been confirmed among guests who stayed at the hotel between July 16 and Aug. 15.

Anyone who stayed there during that period who is experiencing symptoms consistent with pneumonia, or who has been diagnosed with pneumonia, should contact a doctor to discuss or modify treatment, the Health department said.

The Department of Health and Marriott are contacting the 8,500 guests who stayed at the hotel during that time period. About 70 percent had been contacted as of Tuesday evening, Flaherty said.

Legionnaires’ disease is contracted by breathing in mist or vapors from water contaminated with the Legionella bacteria and usually develops two to 14 days after exposure. It frequently begins with headache, high fever and chills, and progresses by the second or third day to include a cough, chest pain and shortness of breath.

Though the disease sometimes spreads through air conditioning systems, investigators were quickly able to rule that out in this case because the Marriott uses a type of air conditioner that cannot spread the disease, Flaherty said.

Guests staying at the hotel Tuesday were informed of the outbreak via letters left in their rooms, and all new guests were also informed before they checked in, Flaherty said.

Most seemed to be taking it in their stride.

“I’m not worried at all,” said accountant Derek Tallman, 28, who was visiting Chicago from Des Moines, Iowa, for work. “I’d be worried if I’d gone for a swim, though.”

Dr. Kathleen Ritger of the Department of Health said, “What is important right now is diagnosing and treating anybody that may have been exposed as soon as possible because that can help shorten the recovery period and prevent serious complications.”

About 30 cases of the disease are reported each year in Chicago.

People who may have been exposed can contact the CDPH hotline at (312) 746-4835 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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