A Long Beach, California, couple was hospitalized with Legionnaire’s Disease after using a hotel hot tub in late June.
Rita and Dan Miles contracted the disease while staying at Aloft San Jose Cupertino, by Marriot, a hotel in Northern California, from June 25-26. The trip was meant to be a send-off for their youngest daughter and her family, who were moving out of state.
“We actually looked and said, ‘Since it’s going to be warm, why don’t we stay at the hotel nearby your house, and we use the pool and the jacuzzi and things like that,’” Dan told a local television station.
After returning home from their trip, their symptoms included exhaustion, fevers, and upset stomachs, and they thought they had food poisoning.
“I resisted going to the ER room thinking that hey, I’m just really tired. This will pass,” Dan told the station. “And quite frankly, I really don’t remember from Wednesday on.”
But by Saturday, July 2, Dan’s symptoms had progressed so badly that Rita called 911.
“At one in the morning, on Saturday morning, I could hear Dan get up to use the restroom,” Rita said. “As he’s walking past our bed, I can hear he has difficulty breathing. And I realized, ‘Oh, my goodness, if I don’t call 911, there’s only two of us here. He’s not capable of calling 911. We need help.”
After an X-ray showed that Dan’s lungs were white, health care workers initially suspected COVID. But further investigation revealed that Dan had contracted Legionnaire’s.
Dan was hospitalized with severe dehydration and acute kidney damage, now reversed, for nine days. He needed a ventilator for four of those days. When Rita went to the emergency room, she said her urine was red, and doctors told her she was also severely dehydrated. She was hospitalized for five days.
The couple said that when their three daughters heard the diagnosis, they immediately thought back to the June visit and reached out to Santa Clara County Public Health officials and the Aloft hotel.
The county tested the hotel’s pool and spa and confirmed the presence of Legionella.
The County of Santa Clara Department of Environmental Health (DEH) and the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department (PHD) issued the following statement: “After receiving a complaint regarding a possible exposure to Legionella at the Aloft San Jose Cupertino pool and spa areas, DEH immediately launched an investigation. DEH inspected the pool and spa areas, which are the areas permitted by DEH. An environmental health specialist collected samples from the hotel’s pool, spa, filling spigots, and recirculation equipment as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance in consultation with the California Department of Public Health.
Of the samples collected at the hotel, a sample collected from the spa filter confirmed the presence of Legionella (Legionella pneumophila), which was confirmed in test results. The spa is closed as it undergoes the CDC-recommended specific decontamination process. The hotel will notify DEH when the decontamination process is completed, and the spa will be resampled to verify there is no presence of Legionella before the spa is authorized to reopen. No additional cases connected to the hotel have been reported to the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department.”
The inspection also found that no detectable amounts of chlorine had been found in the water samples collected and that no additional chlorine containers were available onsite to manually service the pool.
According to the inspection report shared with the news channel, a pool service staff member said, “They ran out of chemicals and had asked the pool service company to bring additional. Due to short supply, the chemicals were due to arrive 7/5/22.”
Chlorine must be above 0.5 ppm of free chlorine to be effective against the Legionella bacteria. The hotel apparently intended to run its pool and spa without any addition of chlorine from at least June 25 through July 5.
Rita says that she plans to carry test strips in her suitcase from now on.
Dan is still recovering from his illness. He has lost 45 pounds since his diagnosis and has been exercising around the house to get better. He says he gets tired by about one or two in the afternoon, but every day, he pushes himself a little further. On August 15, the hotel’s spa was closed and being decontaminated.