Two cases of Legionnaires' disease linked to Econo Lodge in Ocean City

September 17, 2014|By Scott Dance | The Baltimore Sun

Two people who stayed at an Econo Lodge in northern Ocean City this summer have tested positive for Legionnaires' disease and low levels of Legionella bacteria were found in the hotel's water pipes, Worcester County health officials said.

Health officials zeroed in on the 145th Street hotel after a second person who stayed there tested positive for the infection Aug. 28, said Kathleen Derr, nursing program manager for communicable disease for the county health department. The other person became ill earlier in the summer, she said.

The hotel voluntarily closed as it works to remove the bacteria, which can cause lung infection when breathed in water vapor. It is working to notify past guests of their potential exposure, Derr said.

Hotel management could not be reached for comment. A recording on the hotel's voicemail says it is closed for the season and refers guests who had reservations there to two other Ocean City hotels, the Econo Lodge Oceanfront and the Comfort Inn Boardwalk.

Health officials would not provide further details on the two cases, citing privacy concerns. Both people became ill after leaving Ocean City and seeking treatment elsewhere in Maryland, Derr said.

Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in warm water, and most people exposed to the pathogen do not become ill, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 8,000 to 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires' disease each year in the U.S., according to CDC.

Symptoms of Legionnaires' disease include cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches and headache and typically appear within two weeks after exposure, according to CDC. The illness is treated with antibiotics and is rarely fatal. Smokers and those with lung conditions, as well as otherwise impaired immune systems, are most at risk, Derr said.

The bacteria can also cause Pontiac fever, a milder infection that goes away within a few days without treatment.

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