Could You Have Had an Undiagnosed Legionella Infection?

Friday, February 18, 2011
San Diego, CA

The water-borne infections that struck guests of the Playboy Mansion are more common than you think.

According to the Los Angeles County Health Department, about 200 people who attended a recent Playboy Mansion fundraiser were infected by Legionella bacteria. Four of them came down with Legionnaires’ disease, a sometimes deadly pneumonia; the rest had Pontiac fever, a flu-like illness that lasts about three days.

As many as 18,000 people in the United States contract Legionnaires’ disease each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5% to 30% of whom die from it within a few days or weeks.

About 90% of Legionnaires’ cases go undetected, in part because physicians treat the pneumonia but don’t test for Legionella bacteria.

“That’s a big problem,” says Matt Freije, author of Protect Yourself from Legionnaires’ Disease: The waterborne illness that continues to kill and harm. “If Legionella is not recognized as the cause of the infection, then no investigation is performed to pinpoint and fix the plumbing system, hot tub, or other water system that caused it, and that water system can continue to make people sick.”

Pontiac fever is even less likely than Legionnaires’ disease to be diagnosed because it is less severe. Most of us don’t even go to the doctor when we get the flu, let alone try to find out what caused it. Generally, Pontiac fever is recognized only when physicians in the same vicinity report several flu-like illnesses at the same time, attracting the attention of the health department, as with the Playboy event.

According to Freije, “Laws in much of Australia and Europe require building owners to maintain water systems to minimize Legionella bacteria but prevention is not mandated in the United States. I have received emails from many Legionnaires’ survivors who were outraged to find out they suffered from a disease that is preventable.”

Steve Sederstrom is one of the Legionnaires’ survivors who tells his story in Freije’s book. “My experience with Legionnaires’ disease was the worst thing I have ever been through. After five months I still have a major problem with short-term memory. I forget where I am going, or forget people’s names even though I have known them for years. I am afraid that I will never get my memory back.”

Playboy Mansion Legionnaires Outbreak Being Investigated by L.A. Co. Dept. of Public Health: 200 Now Reported Sick

KTLA reports that the number of people who became sick after attending or working at a party at the Playboy Mansion has climbed to 200.

And according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health investigators have focused on the Playboy event as they look for the cause of the sickness.

Health officials say the possible outbreak of legionellosis, or Pontiac fever, affected people connected with the DOMAINfest Global Conference held at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica on Feb. 1-3.

The 3-day conference took place at the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica.

On the second night, there was a party at the Sky Bar on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, and on the third night, the finale party took place at the iconic Playboy Mansion.

Within 48 hours after leaving the mansion, scores of attendees reported coming down with symptoms including fever, respiratory problems and violent headaches.

“The department is investigating several locations associated with this conference, including the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills,” the statement said.

“At this time, Public Health has not determined that the source of exposure is limited to a specific location. The department is working to conclusively identify the source of exposure and the likely cause of illness for this suspected outbreak.”

According to the LA Times, the LA Co. Dept. of Public Health sent out an e-mail on Friday to all the attendees warning them that they had received a cluster of reports of people becoming ill after attending the conference and the Playboy Mansion event.

Pontiac fever is a mild from of legionellosis – the severe form is called Legionnaires disease.

The condition is caused by a bacteria, usually only last for 2 to 5 days and treatment is generally unnecessary.

Symptoms include fever, headache and muscle ache.

Infection usually occurs by breathing in mist from a water source contaminated with the bacteria such as hot tubs, air conditioning systems and showers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bacteria are not spread from person to person, according to the CDC, but are instead inhaled in water vapor.

Some of those who became ill said they suspected a fog machine that was used at the party.

The county Department of Public Health is investigating several locations associated with the conference, including the Playboy Mansion. “At this time, Public Health has not determined that the source of exposure is limited to a specific location. The department is working to conclusively identify the source of exposure and the likely cause of illness for this suspected outbreak,” according to a statement released by the agency on Monday.

A rep for Playboy told the New York Post that, “There is no truth in the rumor that anyone caught anything at the Playboy Mansion. Nor is there any evidence. None of the Playboy staff became ill, the deejay was in the middle of the fog and she didn’t get ill. We have been contacted by the Health Department and the Playboy Mansion is cooperating fully with the investigation.”

DOMAINfest organizers say an estimated 700 people from 30 countries attended the 3-day conference.

Legionnaries’ Outbreak at Playboy Mansion Being Investigated after 80 Guests Become Ill

February 12, 2011 – New York – Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion has come under the scanner after more than 80 guests at a conference and party there became sick with a suspected strain of Legionnaires’ disease, according to

Those who attended the Domainfest conference in Santa Monica, held February 1 to 3, came down with symptoms including fever, respiratory infections and violent headaches.

Four Swedish guests were diagnosed with Legionellosis or pontiac fever, a milder form of Legionnaires’ caused by bacteria that thrives in warm air-conditioning systems.

Now some victims are blaming a fog machine, which steamed up the conference finale party on February 3.

“So far, the number of victims is around 80. Everybody says they became ill around 24 hours after the party,” the New York Post quoted editor Ron Jackson, whose wife, Diana, was stricken, as saying.

“Four guys from Sweden were diagnosed with Legionellosis, and they have the same symptoms as everyone else.

“I don’t want to point the finger at the Playboy Mansion, but the disease lives in warm water, and people were engulfed in mist at that party,” he stated.

New Yorker Elliot J. Silver, who runs Silver Internet Ventures, also fell prey to the bug.

“It is scary everyone came down with the same thing at the same time. It knocked me on my ass. A lot of people are blaming the Playboy Mansion on the blogs, but you can’t be sure,” he said.

A rep for Domainfest said it was working with the LA County Health Department to investigate.

“There were events every night, and we are giving them a list of all the venues. We have no idea what this is or where it came from. The mansion being to blame is, at the moment, pure speculation,” the rep said.

A Playboy rep has claimed that there is no truth in the rumour that people caught something at the Playboy Mansion.

“Nor is there any evidence. None of the Playboy staff became ill, the deejay was in the middle of the fog and she didn’t get ill,” the rep said.

“We have been contacted by the Health Department and the Playboy Mansion is cooperating fully with the investigation,” the rep added.

Legionnaires’ Disease Warning Update for Bali Travelers

The Government of Western Australia Department of Health has provided an updated disease warning for Bali travelers.

The Department of Health has been notified of two additional Western Australians who have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease following travel to Bali.

There have now been 13 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Australians associated with the central area in Kuta since August 2010; 9 from Western Australia.

Communicable Disease Control Director, Dr Paul Armstrong, said while the exact source of the disease remained unknown, all but one of the cases had stayed at the Ramayana Resort and Spa Hotel in the central Kuta area.

“The Indonesian Government has been advised of the Australian cases by the Australian Government, and is working with the World Health Organisation to investigate the possible source of the disease,” Dr Armstrong said.

“The investigating team has taken steps to disinfect potential sources at the hotel, but it is not yet clear that this has been successful,” he said.

Dr Armstrong said the early symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are typically similar to severe ‘flu-like’ illness.
“Early symptoms may include fever, chills, muscle soreness, headaches, tiredness, reduced appetite and diarrhoea, along with dry cough and breathlessness,” Dr Armstrong said.

The Department of Health is advising Western Australians who have recently returned from Bali, and have developed flu-like symptoms within 10 days of their return, to contact their GP.

“Legionnaires’ disease is treated with specific antibiotics, and while most people recover, some people may develop severe pneumonia requiring hospitalisation.”

Legionnaires’ disease most often affects middle-aged and elderly people, particularly those who smoke or who have lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease or a weakened immune system.

Legionella pneumophilia is a type of bacteria commonly transmitted by the inhalation of water droplets from contaminated warm water environments such as:

  • air conditioning cooling towers in large buildings and evaporative air conditioners
  • showers and warm water systems
  • spa pools
  • misting or droplet sprays
  • fountains

Legionnaires’ disease cannot be caught from other people or from animal contact.

For more information on Legionnaires’ disease visit: Legionnaires’ disease in Bali – Frequently Asked Questions.