Seven cases of Legionnaires’ disease were confirmed from an outbreak at the Rio hotel in Las Vegas. That is up from the two cases that sparked the initial investigation in June, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.
Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that there are now 92 confirmed and suspected cases tied to the Legionella bacteria at the Rio. Of those, 56 cases are related to Pontiac fever, a flu-like disease caused by the same bacteria as Legionnaires’ disease.
The Rio hotel disinfected the Ipanema Court and Masquerade Village towers in June. Since then, the staff has been cleaning and testing the premises to make sure the disease is wiped out.
All of the recent tests at the hotel show little or no Legionella bacteria. Guests are not at risk of contracting the disease, according to Robert Cole, a senior environmental health specialist for the Southern Nevada Health District.
The third and latest disinfection was conducted at the Rio on Nov. 3. The results of that disinfection are due at the end of the month.
This timeline is normal for a Legionnaires’ outbreak, Cole explained. The entire process can take up to a year.
“In a situation like this, part of the process of these investigations on an environmental aspect is continued testing and monitoring,” Cole said.
Two people who stayed at the Rio tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease separately in March and April. Since then, reports of more confirmed cases were reported to the local health district by people who traveled to their hometowns, according to Kimberly Hertin, the disease surveillance supervisor for the health district.
The timing of exposure is unclear in the new cases, so the district is keeping the investigation open. In addition to the confirmed cases, there are 29 cases where Legionnaires’ disease is suspected.
Legionnaires’ disease has symptoms similar to pneumonia. The surest way to tell the two apart is to conduct a lab test for the bacteria. Symptoms include high fever, cough, muscle aches, headaches.
People can become sick by breathing in water mist from a source contaminated by the bacteria, including hot tubs, showers, and air conditioning systems in large buildings. The disease cannot be spread from person to person.
Most people who are exposed to the Legionella bacteria do not become sick. But people who are over 50, smoke, have chronic lung disease, or a weak immune system are at increased risk.
Legionnaires’ is a serious disease, but most cases are not life-threatening if treated promptly with antibiotics. If left untreated, the disease can be fatal according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Concerns from hotel guests are being handled “promptly and confidentially,” according to Jennifer Forkish, a spokeswoman for Caesars Entertainment Corp., which owns Rio.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton campaigned at the Rio in February last year.
The hotel appeared to be struck by a lightning in a dramatic 2011 photo of Las Vegas during a thunderstorm.
In 2010, the Rio hosted the Netroots Nation political convention, with speakers including U.S. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D).
In 2008, the Rio hosted the election night watch party for the re-election of then-President Barack Obama.
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