In July 1976, a convention of members of the American Legion — a veterans’ group — was meeting in Philadelphia at the Belleville Stratford Hotel in honor of America’s bicentennial. Soon, 221 attendees would be sickened and 34 dead of an illness it was believed no one had ever seen before.
The CDC sprang into action and by January of 1977 the culprit was identified: Legionella pneumophila. Just yesterday, these bacteria made headlines again when they were discovered to have infected at least three and killed one last year at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where the bacteria were dwelling in “water samples” — most likely the plumbing or A/C system.
Legionella get into the air after an infected water source is disturbed mechanically. Any fine droplets produced may evaporate quickly, leaving the bacteria suspended and easily inhaled.
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