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State investigates St. Louis hotel after 2 guests diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease

State officials are testing the Marriott St. Louis West after two guests who stayed at the hotel this fall were diagnosed with the bacterial lung infection Legionnaires' disease.
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The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is investigating a west St. Louis County hotel after two recent guests developed Legionnaires’ disease.

Two people stayed at the Marriott St. Louis West during separate visits this fall, a release from the department said. One person was diagnosed with the bacterial infection in October and the other in November. The illness is fatal in about 10 percent of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is no evidence that the two people caught the infection from bacteria at the hotel, department officials said. But the fact they had a stay there in common spurred the state to test the property for legionella, the bacteria that causes the disease. Those test results are pending.

The owner of the hotel, Maryland Heights-based Hospitality Lodging Hospital Management, is allowing the state to look for the bacteria, according to a statement from the company.

Legionnaires’ is a bacterial infection that affects the lungs. The bacteria that causes it thrives in warm, wet spaces such as hot tubs, fountains and pipes. While the disease is rarely spread through human-to-human contact, people can catch it after inhaling water vapor contaminated with the bacteria.

The disease is named after its first appearance at the 1976 American Legion convention in Philadelphia, in which dozens of people caught pneumonia from bacteria that had been breeding in a hotel’s cooling towers. The CDC reports there were 138 reported cases in 2017.

Missouri health officials urge people who stayed at the Marriott and developed pneumonia to ask their doctors to test them for Legionnaires’ and report positive results to the state health department.

The state did not disclose the outcome of the two hotel guests that caught the disease  this year.

More than five dozen people have been sickened and 14 have died from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy, which experts tied to its century-old plumbing system.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @Petit_Smudge

Sarah is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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