The U.S. Bicentennial Convention of the American Legion held a meeting in the Bellevue Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia 36 years ago. More than 4,000 World War II veterans and their friends and families attended what they thought would be a memorable event. Little did they know that a deadly bacterium, legionella, would become the lasting memory of that conference.
By the second day of the meeting, many of the 600 people staying at that hotel began falling ill. Days passed and more people fell sick with flu-like symptoms. Soon many people began dying and by the end of the epidemic, 221 people fell ill and 34 had died from the deadly bacterium. Back in 1976, no one knew the legionella bacterium existed. It took health officials six months to determine the cause of the epidemic. The source of the deadly bacterium in that Philadelphia hotel was never found.
Recently, Canada has suffered what is said to be the one of the largest outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease in its history. The deadly outbreak there has claimed the lives of eight people and sickened 126 more, and Quebec’s Health Minister Yves Bolduc predicts that more may be yet to be diagnosed because it can take the disease two to 10 days to incubate.
The 2012 Canadian outbreak is said to stem from rooftop air conditioning units. Health officials there have targeted two building towers in Quebec City.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that up to 18,000 cases of Legionnaire’s disease are reported every year. Click here to read that article.
More recently, health officials are concentrating on a Chicago hotel where three people already are confirmed dead and seven more are said to be infected by the legionella bacterium. The JW Marriott in Chicago’s downtown has reported to have torn out the lobby fountain and shut down the pool, hot tub and portions of its spa while it attempts to disinfect and assure guests and workers there that the area is safe.