The New York State Department of Health announced Friday that individuals who were guests at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel between July 16th and August 1st and were in proximity to the hotel’s pool and spa may have been exposed to Legionella bacteria. The Department is working closely with the hotel to reach guests who were on site during the period of potential exposure. At the request of the State Health Department, Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel has closed their pool and spa to patrons as they continue to remediate the situation.
Legionella bacteria can cause a serious type of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease. The bacteria can also cause a less serious illness called Pontiac fever. Legionnaires’ disease is very similar to other types of pneumonia, with symptoms that include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches. Less common symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, and confusion. Symptoms usually begin two to ten days after being exposed to the bacteria, but it can take longer so people should watch for symptoms for about two weeks after exposure.
Pontiac fever symptoms are primarily fever and muscle aches; it is a milder infection than Legionnaires’ disease. Symptoms begin between a few hours to three days after being exposed to the bacteria and usually last less than a week. Pontiac fever is different from Legionnaires’ disease because someone with Pontiac fever does not have pneumonia.
Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. People at increased risk of getting sick are:
People 50 years or older
Current or former smokers
People with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema)
People with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy)
People with cancer
People with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure
In general, people do not spread the bacteria to other people. Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in water. The bacteria grow best in warm water, like the kind found in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, and decorative fountains. People get infected when they breathe in a mist or vapor containing the bacteria. Any individual that develops symptoms that could be associated with Legionnaires’ disease should share this information with their health care provider.