WilCo health officials close hotel for possible disease outbreak

The Williamson County Health Department has shut down SpringHill Suites off I-35 in Round Rock for a possible outbreak of a disease with pneumonia-like symptoms.

Health officials believe bacteria inside the hotel's hot water system is making people sick.

The parking lot of SpringHill Suites is empty. The rooms are too.

Williamson County Health District Officials ordered staff to halt operations for what they believe to be a Legionnaires Disease outbreak.

"Last week the health district began getting reports from the state health department about two individuals who had been confirmed with the disease called Legionnaires Disease which is a form of pneumonia," said Williamson County Health District Executive Director John Teel.

Within days that two became three.

In response the county closed the hot tub and pool area. "It appears these three cases what they had all done in the months during their separate stay is they had used the hot tub," said Teel.

A hotel employee has since been diagnosed and remains hospitalized.

Wednesday afternoon a guest had to be taken by ambulance-- a possible 5th case.

That was enough to prompt the county to order the hotel be evacuated. "We issued the property management firm an order at 7 p.M. October 4th, yesterday, to cease all guests all admission of guests," said Teel.

Health District Executive Director John Teel believes the source of the disease is bacteria in the hot water supply. "It is not spread from a sick person to a well person. There's no person-to-person spread. This is often called an environmental disease that we get from breathing air that has a microscopic water droplets in it usually from a warm water source could be from a hot tub or swimming pool you could simply be from taking a shower," said Teel.

Teel says the disease can be fatal: One in seven will die.

A hotel spokesperson said in a statement that staff voluntarily evacuated guests ahead of the county's order adding, "The hotel has already engaged an expert third-party firm that specializes in remediating environmental health issues.  Both this firm and the hotel are continuing to work hand-in-hand with the health district to identify any possible source of contamination and rectify them immediately."

The hotel is expected to remain closed for three weeks. It can only re-open with the county's approval.

According to the CDC,  Legionella was discovered after an outbreak in 1976 among people who went to a Philadelphia convention of the American legion. Hence the name--Legionnaires Disease.

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