Legionnaires' Disease Closes Cortina Inn

For Immediate Release: April 4, 2008
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
BURLINGTON – The Cortina Inn in Killington was closed late on Thursday, April 3 at the direction of the Vermont Department of Health. This came after laboratory tests of water samples taken on March 29 from several locations within the Inn confirmed the presence of the bacteria Legionella pneumophila in its water system.

The Health Department was notified on March 28 about a case of Legionella pneumonia, known as Legionnaires’ disease. This was the third confirmed case over the past six months, but the first to be strongly linked to exposure at the Inn. Legionnaires’ disease is treatable with antibiotics, and all three people have since recovered.

“This is a problem that can be fixed. The Cortina Inn is working closely and cooperatively with the Health Department to take the actions needed to assure the safety of their guests and employees,” said State Epidemiologist Cort Lohff, MD. “The first step was closing the Inn for however long it takes to treat and disinfect the water system — and put in place engineering and monitoring measures to prevent this from happening again.”

Employees and current guests were advised of the situation yesterday. The Health Department is also working with the Inn to notify any guests who have stayed there since mid-March.

People can develop Legionnaire’s disease after they breathe in aerosolized water containing the Legionella bacteria sprayed through faucets, showers, whirlpool spas, pools, cooling towers, etc. Most people who are exposed to the the bacteria will not develop illness.

“Legionnaires’ disease is not spread from person to person, and you can’t get it by drinking coffee, driving by or simply walking through a building,” said Dr. Lohff. “For people who are directly exposed, those most likely to develop serious illness are the elderly, smokers, people with chronic lung disease or compromised immune systems.”

Legionnaires’ disease got its name in 1976 when an outbreak of pneumonia, caused by this newly recognized organism, occurred among people attending a convention of the American Legion in Philadelphia. The disease has two distinct forms: Legionnaires’ disease, the more severe form of infection, which includes pneumonia — and Pontiac fever, a milder illness.

An estimated 8,000 to 18,000 people get Legionnaires’ disease in the United States each year. Symptoms usually include fever, chills, and a cough. Some patients also have muscle aches, headache, tiredness, loss of appetite and, occasionally, diarrhea. Chest X-rays often show pneumonia but specific tests are needed to diagnose legionella pneumonia.

As always, the Health Department encourages anyone who has medical concerns to call their health care provider.

For more information on Legionnaires’ Disease, visit the Health Department web site at http://healthvermont.gov.


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