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The outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at the JW Marriott Hotel in Chicago has sickened eight people, claiming the lives of two.  Despite the increase in cases and the fatalities, officials believe there is no danger and that the source has been contained.  The swimming pool, a hot tub, and a fountain in the hotel lobby were drained immediately after hotel staff became aware of the outbreak.  News of the recent victims of this outbreak still comes within the 2-14 day incubation period for the bacteria.  In a few days, it will be conclusive as to whether the outbreak is over.

Generally, there are a number of factors that make hotels common environments for outbreaks to occur, some of which may  (or may not) be implicated in the Chicago outbreak.  Hotels have large public water supplies and patrons have direct access to the water at a number of outlets, including sinks, showers, pools, spas and fountains.  When the water supply is contaminated, there are many opportunities for guests to contract the bacteria by breathing in aerosolized water.  Hotels also may have room vacancies for various periods of time, especially in areas where travel occurs on a seasonal basis.  Vacant rooms provide an opportunity for legionella to multiply while sitting stagnant in portions of the water system that are not used.  Hotels also undergo frequent renovations to keep rooms and facilities updated.  Construction on a building can provide an opportunity for legionella to infiltrate and grow a water system while it is not in use.  Investigations into the JW Marriott outbreak will help to determine which, if any, of these issues were involved in this unfortunate and deadly incident.

Please visit again for future posts related to this outbreak.


Jules Zacher is an experienced attorney who has worked on Legionnaires’ disease cases throughout the country.  He has litigated several cases involving outbreaks at hotels. 


Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 2:20 pm

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