Legionnaires' disease forces Round Rock hotel to close

ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) -- A recent outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at a Round Rock hotel has forced the hotel to close while they determine the source of the problem.

The Texas State Department of Health Services says there have been four confirmed cases of Legionnaires at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott in Round Rock, located at 2960 Hoppe Trail. The Williamson County Health District says there were two cases on Friday and two more on Monday.

The hotel says the four confirmed cases stem from individuals who had been at the hotel at various times this summer and a fifth person was identified Wednesday. After the cases were confirmed, the health department gave the hotel an order to shut down while the investigation continues. In a statement, the hotel states it "voluntarily elected to close" the building to guests on Oct. 4.

A spokesperson for the health department says water samples from the hotel have been sent to a lab for testing. In the meantime, the hotel is working with the health department to identify the source of the contamination and to rectify the problem.

Manny Gonzalez got the news Wednesday night after landing in Austin from New York. "We actually landed in Austin without knowing where we were gonna stay," he said. Eight of his family members, here for a family reunion, were supposed to stay at the Springhill Suites, but were relocated to a nearby hotel.

"This was a bit of a surprise to find out that a hotel of this caliber had that kind of a problem," Gonzales said. "It's something we don't think when we book, but I'm not even sure what to ask, do you make a reservation and ask if they've had a recent health inspection? How do you protect yourself against something like this?"

John Teel, director of the Williamson County Health District, says it comes down to workers being diligent.

"The cause is always a fairly simple reason; it was not maintained properly, it was not kept clean, it was not disinfected or the people in charge of cleaning it did not do their job," Teel said. "It's a quite dangerous germ. One out of every seven people who shows systems of Legionnaires' disease dies from it."

The hotel expects to remain closed until remediation can be completed, which can take up to three weeks. The hotel hopes to be back open the last week of October.

What is Legionnaires' disease

Legionella is a type of bacterium found naturally in freshwater environments, like lakes and streams. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it can become a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made water systems like:

  • Showers and faucets
  • Cooling towers (air-conditioning units for large buildings)
  • Hot tubs that aren't drained after each use
  • Decorative fountains and water features
  • Hot water tanks and heaters
  • Large plumbing systems

After Legionella grows and multiplies in a building water system, that contaminated water then has to spread in droplets small enough for people to breathe in. People can get Legionnaires' disease when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain the bacteria.

The symptoms of Legionnaires' disease are similar to pneumonia. Patients can have a cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches and headaches.

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