One of several people sickened in an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease believed to be connected to a downtown Atlanta hotel has died.
The DeKalb medical examiner’s office confirmed that 49-year-old Cameo Garrett, who attended a Top Ladies of Distinction Conference at the Atlanta Sheraton Hotel in June, died from Legionnaire’s disease. She was one of 12 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease connected to the hotel, although the Georgia Department of Public Health believes there are 55 “probable” cases of the disease associated with the outbreak.
Ms. Garrett, who lived in DeKalb County, first complained of feeling ill on July 4, several days after the Atlanta Sheraton conference, her father, Al Garrett, told Atlanta’s WSB-TV Channel 2 Action News.
On July 9, a worried Mr. Garrett drove from his home in Augusta to visit his daughter. But when he entered her home, he found her dead.
“The Medical Examiner in DeKalb County has confirmed Cameo Garrett died as a result of Coronary Artery Atherosclerosis aggravated by Legionella Pneumonia,” Channel 2 Action News reporter Tom Jones reported.
Legionnaires’ disease is a form of severe pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. The only way people contract Legionnaires’ disease is by inhaling vapor, mist, or water droplets containing the bacteria. Once in the lungs, legionella bacteria can multiply. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, and shortness of breath.
Most people exposed to the bacteria do not get sick and those who do usually make a full recovery. The disease generally has a 10 percent death rate. Most people who become seriously ill are 50 or older, current or former smokers, or have chronic lung disease or weak immune systems.
Outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in hotels, apartment complexes, and other public buildings are often traced to swimming pools and the cooling towers connected to the building’s air conditioning systems. The exact source of the bacteria can be difficult to pinpoint. Although guests of the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel were likely exposed in late June, hotel management said it continues to work closely with public health officials and environmental experts to identify the source.
Ken Peduzzi, general manager of the Sheraton Atlanta, told WSB-TV that “the hotel has moved ahead with precautionary remedial activities while awaiting results.” As of Aug. 8, the hotel remains closed to guests.