Legionnaire’s Confirmed at Boardwalk Hotel; One Fatality Reported

OCEAN CITY- Three more cases of Legionnaire’s Disease connected to a historic Boardwalk hotel were confirmed this week, including an elderly out-of-state victim who has died from the disease, while state and local health officials this week confirmed the presence of the bacteria in the water at the facility.

Last week, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Worcester County Health Department reported three individuals who were guests at the Plim Plaza Hotel on the Boardwalk had developed legionellosis, more commonly known as Legionnaire’s Disease, roughly one week after staying at the hotel. All three individuals were hospitalized, although none had died.

This week, however, three additional cases of Legionnaire’s Disease were confirmed in people who had stayed at the hotel. One of the victims, an elderly out-of-state guest at the hotel, succumbed to symptoms of the disease, according to state health department officials.

“Our sincere condolences go out to the family of the elderly victim that passed away,” said Plim Plaza spokesperson Betsy FauntLeroy, who did not provide any more information about the victim. “We really want to respect their privacy.”

This week, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Laboratories Administration testing confirmed the presence of legionella bacteria in water collected at the Plim Plaza last week. Legionella pneumophia, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s Disease, was detected in water collected from various locations at the hotel.

The Worcester County Health Department and the state DHMH continue to work on the investigation, along with the Plim Plaza Hotel management, which has been proactive and cooperative from the start, according to state and local health officials.

“We’re following all of the strict guidelines with our health department and our own independent company to make sure anything and everything is undertaken to ensure nobody else is put at risk,” said FauntLeroy this week.

Almost immediately after the Plim Plaza and Harrison Group staff learned of a possible connection between the hotel and the three reported cases, guests staying at the hotel were relocated to the group’s other properties in Ocean City. The 181-room facility was about 50-percent occupied at the time the possible connection to legionellosis was reported.

For the Plim Plaza, even a remote connection between the reported cases and the hotel where the original three individuals had stayed was reason enough to relocate the guests and shut down the facility three days prior to its scheduled season-ending closure. In addition to closing the hotel early and relocating its guest, the Plim Plaza staff has reached out to all guests who stayed at the facility over the last month or so.

Legionellosisi is a form of pneumonia caused by inhaling aerosolized water, or water mist, containing the legionella bacteria. Roughly two to 14 days after exposure to the bacteria, a small number of individuals exposed the bacteria may develop legionellosis, which can be treated with commonly available antibiotics.

Symptoms mimic the flu, including high fever, cough and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, or severe body aches. Persons at higher risk include smokers, the elderly, those with chronic lung disease or those with compromised immune systems. However, the illness is not spread from person to person.

Although the hotel is currently closed for the season, state and local health officials, along with the hotel staff, continue to urge anyone who was a guest at the Plim Plaza during the month of September and is experiencing pneumonia-like symptoms to contact his or her health care provider.

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