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Legionnaires' Disease Strikes Two Tourists;
Orlando Hotel Moves Guests
By Walter Pacheco, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Mar. 15, 2008 - State health officials on Friday announced that two tourists who visited Orange County had contracted Legionnaires' disease, a potentially serious respiratory illness.

The travelers, both from out of state, stayed at the Quality Suites, 7400 Canada Ave., near Universal Studios, said Dr. Kevin Sherin, director of the Orange County Health Department.

Quality Suites voluntarily shut down and relocated guests to other hotels Friday while the State Department of Health took about 20 samples of water taken from the pool, spa and other areas of the hotel. The hotel reopened later Friday.

Health officials said they had not determined that the hotel was the source of the infection, however.

The two patients were not publicly identified. It was unclear whether they were related or know each other. Health officials said they were hospitalized but did not say where.

Orange officials launched their inquiry after their counterparts in Pinellas County alerted them to the infections on Wednesday, said Donna Walsh, health department epidemiology manager.

Inspectors visited the Quality Suites on Thursday to investigate conditions and will collect additional samples Monday.

David Overfield, environmental-health director for Orange, said the pool at the hotel "had violations in the past; however, this is not unusual in pool facilities."

Test results are expected in two weeks because "it is a slow-growing organism," he said.

Sherin said he thought the travelers acquired their infections sometime during the past two weeks.

"When we see a cluster like this it makes us very concerned from a public standpoint," Sherin said. "However, I do not recommend others get tested who stayed at the hotel unless they showed symptoms."

Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia caused by an organism that occurs naturally in warm water and can be found in pools, spas and air-conditioning units.

Symptoms include headaches, loss of appetite, aches, pains, fever and coughing. It is treated wof antibiotics.

A total of 155 cases of the disease were reported across the state in 2007, state health records show. Orange County had 13 confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease last year.

"From our perspective, we do not think it's a horrible revelation," Health Department spokesman Dain Weister said. "We hope that it's just these two cases."

Walter Pacheco can be reached at wpacheco@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-6262.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.

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