July 16, 2011 / 3:30 AM / in 6 years

Legionnaires' outbreak reported at Las Vegas resort

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - A luxury resort on the Las Vegas strip has been linked to cases of the sometimes deadly Legionnaires’ disease that has sickened a handful of guests since 2009, health officials and the hotel said on Friday.

Elevated levels of the bacteria that causes the disease were found at the Aria Resort and Casino, a 4,004-room hotel that advertises spectacular views of the Las Vegas skyline and surrounding mountains, they said.

“Health officials have recently notified us of a few reported instances of guests who visited Aria, were diagnosed with, treated for and recovered from Legionnaires’ disease,” the hotel said in a letter posted on its web site.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by Legionella bacteria, named for a 1976 outbreak at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia. It causes pneumonia and kills between five and 30 percent of patients, sending between 8,000 to 18,000 people to the hospital each year. It can be treated with antibiotics.

The Southern Nevada Health District said a small number of cases of Legionnaires’ disease that may have been linked to the hotel were reported in 2009, but tests of the hotel’s water system were normal at the time.

Health authorities again searched for the bacteria at the hotel last month after several more cases were reported, Health District spokeswoman Jennifer Sizemore said. She put the total number of cases since 2009 at six.

The hotel said water tests detected elevated levels of the Legionella bacteria in several guest rooms, but neither the hotel nor health authorities specified what water system the outbreak was associated with.

The hotel said it was contacting guests who stayed in its rooms between June 21 and July 4 to alert them of the possibility they had been exposed to the bacteria, which can spread the disease when it is inhaled.

Gordon Absher, spokesman for MGM Resorts International, which owns the Aria, said the Aria’s water system had been superheated and chemically treated to remove the offending bacteria, which were no longer detectable.

But he said he did not expect the outbreak to have an impact on business, saying he was unaware of any cancellations as a result and that the hotel was having “a good summer”.

Reporting by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Bohan

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