Legionnaire’s disease contracted by a tourist at the Hotel Keys: Suit

Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys.  According to the Monroe County Department of Health, at least two people have contracted Legionnaires' disease in Hawks Cay, a resort town in Duck Key.

Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys. According to the Monroe County Department of Health, at least two people have contracted Legionnaires’ disease in Hawks Cay, a resort town in Duck Key.

When Marcia Blanar stayed at the Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys during the summer, a decorative fountain surrounded by benches “raged with the active Legionella,” according to a lawsuit filed on her behalf earlier this month in the United States Court. Monroe County Circuit.

Legionella, a type of bacteria, can cause Legionnaires’ disease. The disease can cause a serious lung infection and is contracted by breathing in infected water, such as a stream of water. Blanar, of Maryland, “developed an unusual fever and fatigue,” upon returning from vacation, his lawyer Ira Leesfield wrote in the October 1 lawsuit filed in Monroe County Court.

“Above all, it is about defending the rights of our clients to be injured as a result of what we allege is the negligence of the resort,” said Thomas Graham, an attorney working with Leesfield. “Their duty is to ensure that the premises are safe and maintained for guests to enjoy and that there are protocols that can be implemented so that water-borne illnesses do not affect the guests staying. at the complex. “

I stayed at Hawks Cay in July

Blanar tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease shortly after staying at the sprawling resort town of Duck Key from June 30 to July 6, according to the lawsuit, which was first reported by The Key West Citizen.

“Testing of the fountain in question by the Florida Department of Health revealed the presence of the Legionella bacteria that caused Ms Blanar’s Legionnaires’ disease,” Leesfield wrote in the lawsuit.

Blanar is asking for a surplus of $ 30,000 after becoming “extremely ill”.

And she wasn’t the only person to fall ill, said attorney Patrick Kelleher, who represents a client he says is still recovering from the illness. He said he was preparing a lawsuit against Hawks Cay on behalf of MaryAnn Miller of Naples. He said she stayed at Hawks Cay the same weekend Blanar was there. Miller, Kelleher said, was also diagnosed with COVID-19 while being treated for Legionnaires’ disease.

“She’s fighting for her life,” Kelleher said. “She’s still not doing well.”

Citing privacy laws, the Monroe County Health Department said it could not comment on the case involving Hawks Cay.

Letter from the Monroe Health Department

In a letter dated July 28, Bob Eadie, director of the Monroe County health department, told Hawks Cay management that at least two people had contracted Legionnaires’ disease. At this point, water samples from the property were being tested, but Eadie provided recommendations for “immediate remediation,” including developing a water management plan and deep cleaning of sinks and fountains.

In August, Hawks Cay reported to the health department that management had decided to “permanently dismantle the fountain.” The fountain would be filled with sand and then covered with rock, according to documents from the Ministry of Health.

In a statement, Hawks Cay said it is “committed to providing exceptional customer experiences and maintaining a safe environment for customers and staff.”

“The incident in question was immediately rectified and confirmed as such by the relevant health and regulatory authorities,” the company said. “As part of a respectful policy, we do not elaborate on the issues in dispute. “

According to Blanar’s lawsuit, Hawks Cay “failed in its duty” to maintain the fountain and prevent bacteria from growing in the water system.

Flu-like symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease

Legionnaires’ disease can cause flu-like symptoms, including cough, muscle aches and headaches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks are often associated with large or complex water systems, such as those found in hospitals, hotels, and cruise ships,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in his toolkit on Legionnaires’ disease.

In 2020, there was an outbreak of the disease at a women’s labor camp at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman, central Florida. At least 20 women have fallen ill from the bacteria.

At the time, David Krause, who has a doctorate. in toxicology and was the former state toxicologist in the Florida Department of Health from 2008-2011, told the Herald that Legionnaires are most commonly contracted from people with weakened immune systems, who smoke or have other problems, including kidney disease. He said outbreaks in prison were unusual and that it was more likely that there would be outbreaks in hospitals and nursing homes.

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Legionnaires’ disease “is the leading cause of waterborne disease outbreaks in the United States.”

This story was originally published October 16, 2021 6:00 a.m.

Carli Teproff grew up in northeast Miami-Dade and graduated from Florida International University in 2003. She became a full-time reporter for the Miami Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news.

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