In its final report on last summer’s deadly legionellosis outbreak, the state’s Bureau of Infectious Disease Control placed the blame squarely on a Hampton hotel.
Epidemiologists identified 49 people with confirmed, probable or suspected legionellosis during their investigation, including two who died as a result of the illness. Nearly 70 percent of the patients had stayed at The Sands Resort within 14 days of developing symptoms, and those who didn’t stay at the hotel reported being in the vicinity.
“The inadequate maintenance of The Sands Resort hot tub as well as other conditions within the facility, such as low hot water temperatures, may have favored the growth of legionella bacteria,” the bureau wrote in its report, adding that six samples of bacteria taken from the hot tub contained the same bacteria strain “found in respiratory specimens from two people with confirmed Legionnaires’ disease who stayed at The Sands Resort.”
Legionella bacteria can be found in water and soil and can infect humans exposed to aerosolized water, like that in hot tubs. The bacteria can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a pneumonia-like illness that causes death in as many as 10 percent of its patients, and Pontiac fever, which is characterized by mild flu-like symptoms, according to the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control.
The bureau investigated other locations in Hampton, including another hotel hot tub, in which the patients may have been exposed to legionella, but found no evidence to suggest the outbreak began elsewhere.
The owners of The Sands Resort did not return requests for comment.
At least eight people have already sued the hotel’s management after contracting Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever, according to Emile Bussiere Jr., a Manchester lawyer who is representing them. He said his firm will be filing more lawsuits on behalf of additional clients.
The bureau’s final report “just basically confirms what we already believed to be the facts of the case: that the source of the Legionnaires’ was the hot tub at The Sands,” Bussiere said.