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Cancellations at Hotel Where Legionnaires’ Disease Thought to Have Struck

May 18, 1985

DETROIT (AP) _ Several groups have canceled reservations at a hotel where 30 people are thought to have contracted Legionnaires’ disease, even though health authorities say there is little chance of another outbreak of the respiratory illness.

Those stricken were among an estimated 350 people who attended an April 27 banquet at the Hilton Airport Inn in Romulus. One case has been confirmed, and blood tests are expected to reveal later this week whether the other 29 have the disease, said Dr. Donald Lawrenchuk, Wayne County medical director.

Green Moore, 76, who was confirmed as having the disease, remained in critical condition Saturday at Detroit Osteopathic Hospital, said nursing supervisor Belinda Napier. Nine other people have required hospitalization, said Lawrenchuck.

Lawrenchuk and and other health authorities said there was virtually no chance of a repeat of the outbreak, which they first noted on May 9.

″There have been several other banquets at the hotel since then, and no other respiratory illnesses were reported,″ he said. ″We’ve had daily communication with management there.″

Air conditioning systems, frequently a source of the disease in other outbreaks, were disinfected at the hotel, as were its swimming pool and whirlpool, Lawrenchuck said.

Dr. Seth Berkley, a disease control specialist at the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, said closing the hotel would be foolish.

″To just close the hotel because some people became ill, with no evidence of cases outside this one group, would seem kind of crazy to do if there’s not an ongoing problem,″ Berkley said.

Despite the assurances, customers have been canceling reservations since news of the outbreak, the hotel’s manager said.

″Nothing’s been proved, and it’s all been blown out of proportion,″ said hotel manager Steve Chojnacki. ″One hundred fifty people from a Ford (Motor Co.) training seminar walked out of here″ on Friday.

″A company that gives us $400,000 in business is thinking of moving to another hotel,″ he said. ″A person called earlier and canceled plans for a wedding. The wedding’s not until July.″

Legionnaires’ disease earned its name when it infected 180 people and killed 34 at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia in 1976. It is easily treated by antibiotics if diagnosed early on, but can be fatal.

An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at a hospital in Stoke-on-Trent, England this month has killed 36 people.

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