When you go on vacation, there’s always a possibility that you might come down with something. Even before COVID started, lots of people would catch a cold while they were traveling. Besides being exposed to more people than you usually would, you tend to run yourself ragged when you’re traveling, which, in turn, can affect your immune system. Then, when you’re exposed to a cold virus, you’re more likely to get sick.
Catching a cold is one thing. Catching a potentially fatal disease by inhaling bacteria from soil or water is a whole other ballgame and not on anyone’s vacation BINGO card.
The Hawaiʻi Department of Health (DOH) is investigating three cases of Legionnaires’ disease in guests who stayed at The Grand Islander by Hilton Grand Vacations located in Waikiki.
The most recent case was diagnosed this past weekend, after a stay at the resort in mid-late March.
Someone else who had stayed at the resort in February was diagnosed with the disease in early March. And the first person declared to have Legionnaires’ disease after staying at the same resort was diagnosed in June, 2021.
Legionnaires’ 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. Of the 182 reported cases, 29 died.
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria. Symptoms of the disease include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headache. Complications of the disease can include respiratory failure, septic shock or kidney failure. If not treated quickly, Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal.
Symptoms usually begin within two to 14 days of exposure. Most healthy people exposed to Legionella bacteria don’t develop Legionnaires’ disease. Those at increased risk include people 50 and older, current or former smokers, and people with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems.
Legionnaires’ disease is not contagious. It’s typically treated with antibiotics.
Legionella bacteria are found in freshwater environments and can spread in water systems such as showerheads and sink faucets, cooling towers in air conditioning systems, hot tubs, whirlpools, swimming pools, decorative fountains, and large plumbing systems.
The Hawai’i DOH said water samples collected in March indicated a potential for legionella growth within the building’s potable water system and that additional analyses are ongoing. The Grand Islander by Hilton Grand Vacations carried out mitigation measures, as required by the DOH, on March 22, after the identification of the second case of the disease.
“While it is not yet known how or where this individual was infected, our team is working cooperatively with the Hawaii Department of Health as an investigation is conducted.” said a spokesperson for the Grand Islander. “The health and safety of our owners, guests and team members is our top priority.”
“While the risk to the general public is low, cases of Legionnaires’ disease are on the rise nationwide,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble. “Individuals who stayed at the Hilton Grand Islander in the last two weeks who develop symptoms or individuals who were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease after a stay at the Grand Islander are encouraged to seek medical attention and contact DOH.”
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