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2 Deaths Linked To Legionnaires’ Outbreak At Downtown Hotel

JW Marriott Chicago hotel at 151 W. Adams St. (Credit: CBS)

JW Marriott Chicago hotel at 151 W. Adams St. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) –Two guests who contracted Legionnaires’ disease at the downtown JW Marriott are dead, and the outbreak is worse than first reported, city health officials said Monday.

There are five additional cases discovered on top of the three originally reported last week, the Chicago Department of Public Health said in a news release.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding Reports

Officials say the discovery of more Legionnaires’ cases all but confirms that the hotel, 151 W. Adams St., was the location where the victims were exposed to the disease between July 16 and Aug. 15.

“We believe that there is no ongoing health threat at the hotel,” department official Dr. Kathleen Ritger said in the news release.

None of the guests who contracted Legionnaires’ disease were from Chicago, though one of them was from Illinois. Both of the people who died were from out of state, health officials said.

One of them is a Florida physician, CBS 2’s Mike Parker reports. It was thought he died of pneumonia, but after his death his family got a letter from the hotel letter notifying guests of the outbreak.  An autopsy revealed that he had contracted legionnaire’s disease.

The age of those infected were 49-82, Ritger said.

Legionnaires’ disease is not contagious and cannot be transmitted from one person to another, the health agency said.

About 8,500 people were guests at the JW Marriott Chicago during this time-frame when guests contracted the disease. The CDPH has set up a hotline for people who may have been exposed to the disease: (312) 746-4835.

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia caused by a bacterium known as Legionella. Legionnaires’ disease is contracted by breathing in small droplets (mist or vapor) of water contaminated with the Legionella bacteria.

Legionnaires’ disease usually develops two to 14 days after exposure to legionella bacteria. It frequently begins with headache, high fever, and chills. By the second to third day of illness symptoms of pneumonia develop, including cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

In response to the outbreak, the hotel drained its swimming pool, its spa whirlpool and its lobby fountain. Health officials say the Marriott has cooperated fully with them.

In north suburban Lake Villa, Alvin Taylor is recovering from the disease. Although he was not a Marriott guest, he somehow contracted Legionnaires’ in early June and was hospitalized. At first, doctors thought it was pneumonia. The symptoms are the same.

“My lungs was collapsed or something. It was hard for me to breathe,” Taylor tells CBS 2’s Mike Parker.

His wife, Demetria says doctors “couldn’t figure out why someone so young was just being sick with pneumonia and kidney failure.”

Now Taylor’s out of the hospital and on the mend. His thoughts are with the other victims.

Lake County health officials have still not figured out how and where Taylor got the disease. It is a mystery he’s hoping they can solve.