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Disease Shuts Down Israeli Hotel

January 14, 2003

JERUSALEM (AP) _ A hotel in the southern resort city of Eilat was closed Tuesday after at least two guests were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, Israel’s Health Ministry said.

Two guests who stayed in the hotel in December have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, a Health Ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A third hotel guest was recently hospitalized suffering from pneumonia and is under examination to check if the illness was caused by Legionnaires’ disease, ministry officials said.

The Herod’s Palace Hotel, part of the Sheraton chain, will remain closed for two days while its water system is tested, said Health Ministry spokesman Iddo Hadari.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by a bacterium called legionella pneumophila. The disease gets its name from an outbreak in 1976, when 34 people died from the illness at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia in the United States.

A relatively common bacterium, legionella pneumophila causes Legionnaires’ disease when it is inhaled through mist from air conditioners, hot water tanks, whirlpool spas, humidifiers, faucets, shower heads and moist soil, experts say.

People who contract the disease usually experience flu-like symptoms. If left untreated, the disease proves fatal in 15 to 20 percent of cases. The disease is especially dangerous to the elderly, people with weakened immune systems and children.

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