Washington State victim may be linked to Legionnaires' outbreak

A woman in her 50s from Washington state is the individual whose death in December may be linked to a recently reported outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at the Luxor, the Washington State Health Department revealed Friday.

Responding to an inquiry from the Review-Journal that grew out of an anonymous phone call to the newspaper, Allison Cook, a spokeswoman for the health department, confirmed that the woman was a resident of Skagit County, which is about 60 miles north of Seattle.

Health authorities from Washington are working with the Southern Nevada Health District to determine if the woman's death is connected to the outbreak.

Citing privacy laws, neither Cook nor Stephanie Bethel of the Southern Nevada Health District would reveal the woman's name or discuss the medical attention she received for the form of pneumonia before her death.

An interim report released by the Southern Nevada Health District said that for someone to have a confirmed case of the disease from the hotel, certain steps must have been taken, including getting care for symptoms consistent with pneumonia or having pneumonia confirmed by an X-ray. The person also would have become ill within two days of arrival and 14 days after leaving.

Legionella, the bacterium that causes Legionnaires' disease, is often found in air conditioning cooling towers, whirlpool spas, showers, faucets or other water sources, The bacterium can rapidly reproduce in warm, stagnant waters.

The disease is caught only through inhaling contaminated water vapor.

The woman's case is one of three reported in the past year at the Luxor. There was one in January and two earlier in the year. The two other guests recovered.

All three cases were discovered through the national surveillance program overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There have been no other reports of Legionnaires' disease at the hotel, which has about 2 million guests a year.

Inspection and cleansing of all Luxor hotel water systems are to be completed by Feb. 8, health officials said.

Contact reporter Paul Harasim at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908.