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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Legionnaires’ disease reported at Gonzaga fans’ hotel in Las Vegas

Some Gonzaga fans staying at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for the West Coast Conference basketball tournament received notices that the hotel’s water system recently tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease.

The confirmed cases include one in December 2022 and another in January 2023. None have been reported since that time.

The Southern Nevada Health District issued a news release on Saturday saying that tests conducted weeks ago were positive for the Legionella bacterium in the Orleans Hotel water system.

“To help prevent additional people from becoming sick the hotel has begun implementing remediation procedures and a protective water management plan,” the district said in the news release. “Throughout the remediation process the Health District will monitor additional water sampling of the hotel’s water system to determine if Legionella are present and to ensure the disinfection efforts are effective.”

Legionnaires’ disease is spread when people inhale aerosol droplets of water that are contaminated with the bacteria, according to the health district. Sources include showers, hot tubs, faucets, cooling towers, misters and decorative fountains.

Some employees of The Spokesman-Review who are staying at the hotel as they report on the Gonzaga men’s and women’s basketball teams received notices along with fans on Sunday night warning against using the shower.

“Until the system is fully treated, taking a shower or a bath with the jets running may put you at risk by breathing water in the air,” the notice from Orleans Hotel reads. “Taking a normal bath, handwashing, or drinking water would not pose an elevated risk.”

According to the Southern Nevada Health District, Legionnaire’s disease is a type of pneumonia. Most exposed to the bacteria do not get sick. However, the illness can be severe “and sometimes result in death,” according to the news release.

The Legionella bacteria was discovered after an outbreak in 1976 among people who went to a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those who were affected suffered from a type of pneumonia that eventually became known as Legionnaires’ disease

Symptoms usually begin two to 10 days after exposure.

“However, people should watch for symptoms for about two weeks after exposure,” the health district news release states. “Guests who stayed at The Orleans Hotel & Casino more than two weeks ago and have not developed symptoms are not at risk for disease.”

Reached by phone on Monday, David Strow, spokesman for Boyd Gaming Corporation, which owns the hotel and casino, declined to answer questions about whether any customers altered their plans after learning of the positive tests. But he did issue a statement saying the hotel staff is following protocols issued by the health district.

“We are working closely with the Health District in their investigation,” Strow wrote. “However, it is important to keep in mind that this matter involved two reported cases among the thousands of guests who stayed at the Orleans over the last several months without incident.”

Gonzaga Athletic Director Chris Standiford said neither the Gonzaga women’s team nor the men’s team were staying at the hotel.

“But we have tons of fans and we have support staff there,” he said. “There is, to my knowledge, no restrictions whatsoever. It’s just a matter of notification.”

Both Gonzaga teams were housed in a different hotel for considerations that had nothing to do with the reported positive test at the Orleans, he said.

Standiford said his 85-year-old parents were staying at the Orleans. Neither they nor he had any concerns.

“Obviously, they have mitigation efforts ongoing,” he said. “They have met the expectations of the health department or they wouldn’t be able to be occupied.”

Standiford said school officials met with hotel officials to discuss the situation. In the end, the school did not move any of the staff.

“We took it very seriously and did the best we could to get the best information we could get to make the most informed decision,” he said. “We did what was in the best interest of all parties.”