Officials probe source of Legionnaires’ disease after German’s death
Health officials are investigating a case of Legionnaires’ disease that killed a 57-year-old German man, and tests are under way to see if there is any link to the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch, Germany, which the man had visited recently.
There is no evidence to this point that the man contracted the Legionella bacteria at the U.S. military’s popular resort and hotel, said Wolker Juds, manager of the local health office in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
The man, whose name has not been released, died Thursday at a hospital in Austria, and his urine tests were positive for the bacteria, Juds said. He had stayed at the Edelweiss Lodge from Aug. 23-27, and then went to Austria, where he was hospitalized Sept. 1, Juds said.
The man is married to an American woman, according to Juds.
People get the disease — a type of pneumonia — when they breathe in mist or vapor contaminated with the Legionella bacteria that thrives in warm water, like the kind found in hot tubs, hot-water tanks, large plumbing systems or parts of the air-conditioning systems of large buildings. Symptoms of the disease are usually seen two to 14 days after exposure to the bacteria, which means there are three places where the man could have contracted the bacteria, Juds said.
"[It] could be the place he was at from Aug. 20 to Aug. 22, it could be from the Edelweiss Lodge or from some place in Austria," Juds said. "There is no evidence that he was infected at the Edelweiss Lodge."
Testing is already under way on the hotel’s water distribution and treatment systems, and initial results are negative for the bacteria, said William Bradner, spokesman for the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, which is in charge of the resort.
As a precaution, though, further tests are being conducted, and their results should be available in a week to 10 days. The lodge is also equipped with a Legionnaires Preventive System that superheats water to 70 degrees Celsius, or 148 degrees Fahrenheit.
Legionnaires’ disease symptoms are similar to any other form of pneumonia: high fever, chills and a cough. It can be fatal when undetected, but most cases can be treated successfully with antibiotics, and healthy people usually recover from the infection, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Individuals most likely to get the disease are older people, smokers and those with weak immune systems from diseases such as cancer, diabetes or kidney failure. Nationwide, up to 18,000 Americans are hospitalized annually from the illness, according to the CDC’s Web site.
The disease is not contagious and cannot be spread from person-to-person contact.