ATLANTA — The Sheraton Atlanta has closed while the Georgia Department of Health, along with the Fulton County Board of Heath investigates reported cases of Legionnaires' disease there.
Legionnaires' disease is a serious type of pneumonia caused by bacteria known as Legionella.
"The Georgia Department of Public Health is working with the Fulton County Board of Health to investigate reported cases of Legionella related to the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Atlanta," said Nancy Nydam with the Georgia Department of Public Health. "The hotel is cooperating in the investigation."
The hotel was evacuated with many guests being relocated to a nearby Hilton. A computer conference was taking place at the hotel and some guests tell 11Alive, they weren't told why they were being moved.
Some described the evacuation as chaos.
Laurie McCareoff is staying in the hotel and said she was told there were three confirmed cases of the disease reported to the health department.
"Just pray to God for protection we won’t get sick and we couldn’t be getting out of here fast enough," she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Legionnaires' disease can cause pneumonia symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, headache and fever.
People can catch the disease by inhaling the bacteria in a public place. It can't be passed by skin from person to person.
"It’s usually in the air, in water droplets like a mist that you might come across from air conditioner, the shower, a spa, something like that," said Dr. Sujatha Reddy.
Doctors use chest x-rays or physical exams to check for pneumonia.
While Legionnaires' disease is serious, it can be treated with antibiotics. Most people who get sick need hospitalization, but make a full recovery.
RELATED: What is Legionnaires' disease
11Alive reached out to management at the hotel about what they’re doing with the situation and how they plan to take care of any refund for their customers.
"The health and safety of our guests is our greatest priority. We are working closely with public health officials and outside experts to conduct testing to determine if Legionella is present at the hotel. As a result, out of an abundance of caution we have made the decision to close the hotel while we await the results," said Ken Peduzzi, the Sheraton Atlanta's general manager in a statement released Monday evening. "The Sheraton Atlanta is currently working to relocate its guests to nearby hotels. It is also reaching out to guests with upcoming reservations to assist in directing them to other nearby hotels. Guests whose reservations have been canceled will receive a full refund."
The Sheraton Atlanta is a popular host hotel for the annual Dragon Con convention, which takes place Labor Day weekend.
A Dragon Con representative told 11Alive, “The safety of our fans is the first priority for Dragon Con. We are currently working with Sheraton management to understand the situation, the solutions, and the timeframes involved.”
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