Atlanta hotel guest, 49, DIES after contracting Legionnaires' disease

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Legionella pneumophila, a bacterium, is usually the cause of the illness.

The onset of the bacterial disease, which can kill one in 10 people sickened with it, is believed to have originated at a Sheraton hotel in Atlanta during a July conference.

Garrett was one of 12 confirmed cases of the disease. All the people who have become ill either stayed at the hotel or visited the hotel, the health department said.

The hotel has not been confirmed as the source of the outbreak of the serious form of noncontagious pneumonia, but voluntarily closed and is working with public health officials and environmental experts investigating the situation. The state health department said a first set of samples was collected July 19, followed by more on July 29.

Nydam told Newsweek on Wednesday that GDPH and the Fulton County Board of Health (FCBOH) "are overseeing the sampling and testing being done by the contractor hired by the Sheraton Hotel. The health and safety of our employees and guests is our top priority".

The Georgia Department of Public Health said people who stayed at the Atlanta hotel between June 12 and July 15 to seek medical attention immediately if they have symptoms compatible with legionellosis.

Every year, there are at least 20 Legionnaires' outbreaks reported-and about 5,000 cases diagnosed nationally-according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease infects a predicted 10,000 to 18,000 folks in the United States every year, with some cases not reported to the health department. The condition does not spread from person to person - rather, people contract legionnaires' from breathing in the bacteria, often from mist and the water dripping from air-conditioning units. Even though only a dozen cases have been verified as linked to the hotel, officials say they are probing 61 other possibles cases, bringing the projected total to as many as 73.

Legionnaires' disease is a respiratory disease that can be contracted simply by inhaling Legionella bacteria.

"It takes a lot of investigation from individuals with a variety of expertise and backgrounds ... to understand where to test and how to test and how to sort of pinpoint the culprit", she says.

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