Nancy Nydam, director of communications at the Georgia Department of Public Health, confirmed the death to Fox News on Wednesday. The person’s name has not been released due to privacy laws.
“There are 12 lab-confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease, including one death, and 61 probable cases,” as of Wednesday, she added. The source of the outbreak, which affected guests who visited or stayed at the hotel between June 12 and July 15, has not yet been identified. The hotel voluntarily closed as a result of the outbreak and will remain so “until the source of the Legionella is located and remediation is complete,” state health officials said in a statement.
“Legionnaires’ disease is a ‘severe form of pneumonia,’” according to the Mayo Clinic, which explains pneumonia as an inflammation of the lung that is typically caused by an infection.
“You can’t catch Legionnaires’ disease from person-to-person contact. Instead, most people get Legionnaires’ disease from inhaling the bacteria,” the Mayo Clinic states, noting that older adults, those who smoke, or those with “weakened immune systems” are the most susceptible.
Legionella pneumophila, a bacterium, is usually the cause of the illness. It can be found in soil and water, but more commonly causes infection when it multiplies in water systems (e.g., hot tubs and air conditioners).
The disease is treatable with antibiotics, and those who are sickened typically recover in full. Symptoms often include fever, chills, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Last year, Georgia saw 189 cases of Legionnaires’ disease, The New York Times reports.