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Legionnaires’ news story saves a life

A Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak has been linked to the spa at Clarion Pointe Wake Forest Hotel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

One woman suffering from the disease said a WRAL News Story helped lead to her diagnosis, which came after Wake County health officials identified three cases of Legionnaires’ connected to the hotel spa.

Before they became ill, the news channel reported that three people had visited the hotel. Two were recovering after treatment, and no additional details were shared on the third.

But when Mary Massenburg first arrived at WakeMed Hospital in June, doctors didn’t know why she was so sick.

Massenburg and her family had checked into the hotel on May 29 to celebrate her granddaughter’s 10th birthday at the pool. The following evening, she started coughing, and by the next day she had developed a fever.

She thought it was the coronavirus, having been through it before. Her husband died of COVID in January.

But multiple COVID-19 tests came back negative, and at the same time, her oxygen levels were becoming critical.

On the evening doctors began discussing a tracheotomy, her daughter was watching the news. She learned that Wake County Public Health Department found three cases of Legionnaires’ Disease at the hotel where they stayed.

Legionnaires’ is a specific type of pneumonia caused by a bacterium generally found in water.

It is not spread from person to person.

People catch it by breathing contaminated aerosolized water — shower heads, hot tubs, fountains, and air conditioning units are frequent culprits.

According to Alexa Mieses Malchuk with UNC Health, Legionnaires’ Disease is rare but dangerous.

“It looks just like any other case of pneumonia. The only way you can tell whether or not it’s Legionnaires’ is to get tested,” she said.

WRAL reported that Wake County was encouraging anyone who visited the hotel between May 1 through June 2 to monitor themselves for symptoms and seek medical care with their primary care physician or primary care clinic for Legionella if symptoms do occur.

Massenburg’s daughter told the doctors what she’d learned, and they began treating her, as well as her son, who was also sick, for Legionnaires’.

Now she’s back to work, and her son has also recovered.

“That report saved my life,” Massenburg said.

The county health department stated that the spa was closed and drained, which included cleaning the spa’s water system.

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