Thousands of people planning to travel to Atlanta for Dragon Con are eagerly awaiting word that one of the host hotels — Sheraton Atlanta — will reopen after an outbreak of Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease.
The hotel voluntarily closed July 14. Since then, one person has died, 12 people have lab-confirmed Legionnaires' and 63 more cases are considered "probable," according to the health department.
Sheraton General Manager Ken Peduzzi said Friday the hotel will remain closed until at least Aug. 14.
"I offer our deepest sympathies to all of those affected by the Legionella outbreak," Peduzzi said in a statement. "Please know that our thoughts are with you and your families."
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria.
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People can contract the disease when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain the bacteria.
The hotel has been working closely with the state health department, Fulton County Board of Health and environmental experts who are testing equipment to ensure no threat of Legionella infection remains.
"A thorough cleaning of the hotel’s entire water distribution system has been completed as a precautionary measure, including cleaning, scrubbing and chlorination of all water features," Peduzzi said. "At this time, we are awaiting additional testing results and we will complete a review of those results, as will the Georgia Department of Public Health. After final results are known, we will provide another update on both the results and opening date."
Amy Wenk of Atlanta Business Chronicle told On Second Thought host Virginia Prescott she estimates the economic damage to the Sheraton in the millions.
"If it's closed about a month — I did some rough calculations based on average hotel occupancy and room rates — it’s easily losing $1 million in gross revenue if not closer to $2 million," Wenk said. "But, really, it's more than just the impact of this lost business. If the problem due to the outbreak is at the hotel, there are going to be costs to repair that and they're going to have to do it in a way that restores the confidence of people who say they're moving forward."