|By Fred Tasker, The Miami
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
December 15, 2009 - Miami-Dade health officials are asking anyone who
stayed at downtown Miami's luxury Epic Hotel recently, and who now
might have symptoms of Legionnaire's Disease, to contact the department
-- and their personal physicians.
The hotel is closed while its water system is inspected and disinfected.
Recent hotel guests are asked to call the health department at
305-470-5660. Epic hotel spokesman Bruce Rubin said the hotel, at 270
Biscayne Blvd. Way, in downtown Miami, is giving the county a contact
list for its guests and residents -- many of whom are from out of the
``Symptoms include cough, fever with or without chills, greenish or
yellow sputum, headaches and body aches,'' said Dr. Vincent Conte, the
health department's chief epidemiologist. ``The incubation period is
two to 14 days from time of exposure.''
He said 8,000 to 15,000 people die each year from Legionnaire's
Disease, whose fatality rate is 2 to 30 percent.
One European tourist died in October, and two others fell ill in
November, all from Legionnaire's Disease, Conte said. The two sickened
have fully recovered, he said. Two of the victims took cruises out of
Miami -- on separate cruse lines. He declined to give their ages, sex
or country of origin.
Officials are investigating whether the new water filtration system at
the hotel might have been involved in the contamination, although they
stressed that their investigation is not complete.
``It appears the hotel installed a filtration system that strips the
chlorine out of the water from the county, making it susceptible to
waterborne diseases,'' said Samir Elmir, the department's director of
environmental health and engineering. ``I've never seen a system like
Rubin said the filter was made by Culligan. He said no other hotels
managed by Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants of San Francisco use that
filter system. Spokesmen for Culligan, headquartered outside Chicago,
did not return calls for comment.
Conte stressed that the county water supply in downtown Miami is safe.
``Its chlorine levels are more than adequate to kill dangerous
bacteria,'' he said. ``It appears the problem is confined strictly to
the Epic Hotel.''
Still, he said the Health Department is contacting other new building
owners in Miami-Dade to determine whether any of them has a similar
``There's a possibility it could be in other places, although this is
the only case we're aware of,'' Conte said. ``If they have that system,
they need to look at it.''
He said he did not know whether the problem might have been with the
filter itself or in the way it was used.
``We're still trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle,'' Elmir
Elmir said the department also is contacting the Miami Building
Department to prevent similar problems in other buildings.
Elmir said staff and engineers at the Epic Hotel are cooperating with
the investigation, and with efforts to clean up their water supply.
``We started executing the plan Sunday, to disinfect the filter system,
superchlorinate the entire plumbing system, the hot water, cold water,
cooling tower, spa, showers. After that we will check to make sure the
chlorine in the whole building is the same as the level in county
water,'' Elmir said. Rivera said she doesn't know how long the hotel
will be closed.
``I don't want to say a time frame. I don't know how long it will be.
We want to do it as quickly as possible but as safely as possible.''
Rubin said the hotel has relocated all guests and residents and all
events scheduled in the building in coming days. Weddings scheduled for
Friday and Saturday have been relocated, he said.
Conte said the health department was notified about the Legionnaire's
Disease cases by the quarantine station at Miami International Airport
run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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