Hotels brush up on Legionnaire’s Disease prevention

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Public Health Ministry officials are working with area hotels to prevent an outbreak of potentially fatal Legionnaire’s Disease.

At an April 25 seminar in Jomtien, Dr. Rome Buathong of the ministry’s Disease Control Bureau and staff from D&G Chemical & Trading Co. reminded hotel executives that Legionnaire’s is usually transmitted by unclean air-conditioning units and has a mortality rate higher than the most virulent flu.

“Research shows that the mortality rate for is up to 15 percent, higher than Influenza H1N1,” Rome said. “Bacteria are often found in a large reservoir, which is considered very formidable.”

Named after the 1976 outbreak at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia that killed 29 people, Legionnaires’ victims are often guests at hotels cooled by massive air-conditioning systems. The waterborne bacteria Legionella pneumophila incites pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses.

Pattaya has not seen a Legionnaire’s outbreak since 1995, although Buathong referenced a case of an unnamed man who died of Legionnaire’s-like symptoms earlier this year. He may, however, have contracted the disease elsewhere.

Rome said symptoms include poor appetite, fatigue, muscle pain, and headaches with a sudden high fever. The body temperature rises to 40 degrees Celsius with a cough with no sputum, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. During the current situation the Legionella disease is more violent. In Thailand, the most susceptible places are Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya.

The ministry expert discussed response plans in other countries, noting Sweden takes swift action at any hint of an outbreak, closing entire hotel districts if necessary.

Suradet Sathnapathai, president of the Eastern Hotel Technicians Association, added that the United States and other countries prevent the disease with chlorine dioxide systems that safety kill the Legionella bacteria in drinking water.

Despite the lack of outbreaks, officials agreed more importance must be given to standards and systems of disease prevention in the workplace.