Report: 3rd Legionnaires' death was Irish man visiting Chicago

September 1, 2012 9:05:45 AM PDT
A third death has now been linked to Legionnaires' disease contracted from the downtown Chicago JW Marriott hotel.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the latest victim was identified as Thomas Keane, 66, of Ireland. An Irish newspaper also confirms the man died Wednesday while he and his wife were visiting his son in Chicago. The two apparently stopped at the hotel to eat while on a walking tour celebrating their 40th anniversary.

News of the latest death comes as the Chicago Dept. of Health says the number of reported cases has increased from 8 to 10.

Guests who became ill stayed at the hotel from July 16 through August 15.

Public health officials say the likely source of the outbreak was the hotel's main fountain in the lobby. So, the hotel reacted swiftly.

"We took it upon ourselves to actually remove the fountain out of the lobby," said Catherine Mrowiec, general manager, JW Marriot.

The hotel also warned guests about an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease via letters and emails.

For most patients, the symptoms of Legionnaires are mild and include headache, fever, chills and cough. But for some patients, especially those with respiratory distress, it can be more serious and sometimes fatal for those who develop pneumonia. Doctors say it is almost always is spread through aerosolized water from fountains, showers, hot tubs or other sources.

"The bacteria is everywhere. In muddy water, the ground, soil ... once it gets into the atmosphere, it gets aerosolized and you get enough of it up in there , that's when it becomes a problem," said Dr. Mark DeSilva, Gottlieb Hospital.

Decorative water fountains can even be a problem in typically healthy environments like hospitals.

In a news release, the health department says, "There is no ongoing risk to Chicagoans."


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