It's business as usual in the lobby of the J.W. Marriott Hotel downtown, except for a prominent sign in front of the now dry lobby fountain explaining an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at the establishment.
"I think it's still an on going investigation," Chicago Department of Health Kathy Ritger explained after being asked about the cause of the outbreak. "The hotel is taking all the necessary precaustions they need to take at this time."
At least two people have died from complications with Legionnaires' disease after staying at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Chicago, the Chicago Department of Public health said Monday in a release.
The individuals who died stayed at the hotel between July 16, 2012 and August 15, 2012. During that span, eight confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease were reported by individuals who had stayed at the hotel, making it the "common exposure setting."
Health department officials and the hotel continue to investigate the outbreak. They say the threat at the hotel has dissipated.
"I think you have to remember that these are cases that go back to the time frame that we are talking about," said Ritger said of the test being conducted as part of the investigation to determine the exact cause. "We have not seen any recent cases or anything out of that time frame.
Last week the city and the hotel began notifying the 8,500 guests who stayed there during the dates in question. A hotline has been set up by CDPH to answer questions from people who may have been exposed to the disease. That phone number is (312) 746-4835 during Monday-Friday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, CDT. Since the initial announcement by CDPH and JW Marriott last week, the hotline has received about 100 calls from people both reporting symptoms similar to Legionnaires' disease and also looking for general information.
Authorities say they've identified the source of the bacteria and there's no ongoing health risk.
Guest staying at the hotel on Monday did not seem concerned.
"I'll stay here again," said one guest walking into the lobby, only a few feet away from the warning sign.
"We trust that they've done the right things to clear it up," said another guest about the hotel's actions to close the spa, drain the pool and other steps as precautions.
The Centers for Disease Control confirms the bateria causing Legionnaires' could have emanated from water and vapor in either the hotel's air conditioning system or the Valeo pool and spa which uses a unique water treatment system that requires less chlorine than drinking water.
The bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease grow in water and can spread through vapor in air-conditioning ducts or mist from a whirlpool spa.
An independent contractor hired by the hotel and city inspectors took water samples and swabbed the whirlpool and pool in the hotel's spa, along with the lobby fountain.
Symptoms of Legionnaires' disease include headache, high fever, chills, cough, chest pain and shortness of breath.
The hotel is housed in an historic Daniel Burnham building renovated just two years ago for almost $400 million.
Editor's note: This post was originally published Aug. 27, 2012.