Missouri News

Missouri public health agency clears Hannibal hotel found to have Legionnaire's disease outbreak

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 30, 2015 10:10 am
HANNIBAL, Mo. -- The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has cleared a Hannibal hotel found last month to have the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease.

Best Western on the River, 401 N. Third, closed the older part of the hotel facility in November after three visitors who stayed at the hotel at least one night over the previous eight months came down with legionellosis, symptoms of which vary from flu-like symptoms to pneumonia. One of the three subsequently died.

A team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took 40 samples from the hotel Nov. 20 and reported that four rooms in the older building tested positive for legionella bacteria. That night, staff from the local public health agency and DHSS met with hotel management and asked that the hotel close the building until remediation efforts could be done and further test results were negative for legionella.

DHSS representatives took 24 additional samples Dec. 14, which came back "satisfactory," according to a Dec. 23 letter from Eric Hueste, chief of the department's Bureau of Environmental Health Services. He said hotel officials could reopen for occupancy. An employee who answered the phone Tuesday afternoon said the facility is expected to resume business within the next two weeks.

Aswin Patel, son of hotel owner Babu Patel, did not immediately return phone messages, but he told The Herald-Whig earlier this month that they were surprised to learn their facility had been connected to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak.

"You always hear about things like this happening somewhere else, but not at your place," Aswin Patel said. "It can happen anywhere. I mean, there's nothing we could have done to prevent it. But now we're taking the right steps to clear it all up."

A private environmental contractor was hired to superheat and hyperchlorinate the hotel's potable water system. DHSS spokesman Ryan Hobart said those treatments were completed Dec. 9. He said the facility will also undergo monthly testing over the next six months.

A new 30-room building was constructed this summer across from the older 79-room facility where the legionella bacteria were found. The new building remained open during the investigation and remediation work.

An outbreak of Legionnaires' disease occurred earlier this year at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, Ill., contributing to 12 deaths and sickening dozens more. A CDC report said legionella bacteria were likely spread through an "extensive and poorly understood water distribution system" and a "general lack of understanding of water system details." Illinois state officials have pledged $4.8 million to upgrade the Veterans Home's water system.

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