Remediation still not completed at site of Legionnaires' outbreak in Hannibal

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 10, 2015 8:35 am
HANNIBAL, Mo. -- State officials are still waiting for remediation efforts to be carried out before any more testing for Legionnaires' disease takes place at the Best Western on the River Hotel in Hannibal.

Ryan Hobart, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, told The Herald-Whig that the agency will not conduct any testing this week.

"DHSS will conduct the testing after remediation is complete," Hobart said.

The DHSS and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched an investigation after three people who stayed at the hotel at least one night over the past eight months came down with legionellosis illness. One of the three subsequently died.

Hobart said a team from the CDC took 40 samples from the hotel Nov. 20 and reported that four rooms tested positive for legionella bacteria. That night, Hobart said, staff from the local public health agency and DHSS met with hotel officials and asked that the hotel agree to close the facility immediately until remediation could be done and further test results proved satisfactory.

Only the 79-room older portion of the hotel -- where the legionella bacteria was discovered -- was shut down. A newer 30-room section, which was unaffected by the outbreak, has remained in operation.

Aswin Patel, the son of hotel owner Babu Patel, told The Herald-Whig last week that the hotel has hired a private environmental contractor to take the necessary steps to clear up the problem, which will involve superheating or hyperchlorination of the entire facility's potable water system. Patel was hoping the work might begin last week, but he said some specialized equipment had to arrive before the work could start.

Patel did not return phone calls this week from The Herald-Whig seeking an update on the status of the remediation work.

Jean McBride, administrator of the Marion County Health Department, declined to comment on the matter. She referred news media representatives to DHSS.

"This is their investigation," McBride said.

Hobart said more testing will be needed to gauge the effectiveness of the remediation efforts -- whenever that work gets completed.

"When the test results are negative for legionella, the facility will be allowed to reopen," he said.

In an email interview this week, Hobart said no other legionella cases have been tied to the Hannibal hotel, and no more deaths have occurred.