JW Marriott Chicago: Legionnaires’ Disease Deaths

Turns out that my May 2012 spring media stay at the JW Marriott Chicago might have placed me on the front line in more ways than one. My stay coincided with the lead up to the Chicago NATO Summit where everyday I saw more police than protestors on the streets of the financial district. In addition to the disease spreading activists on the outside of the hotel exposing unsuspecting people to think about our global future was a disease brewing environment inside the JW Marriott Chicago hotel about to cut short the future of a few unsuspecting guests this summer.

Frank Lloyd Wright-JW Marriott 358

Three guests at the JW Marriott Chicago died from Legionnaires’ Disease after their hotel stays this summer. A total of ten guests have been identified as contracting Legionnaires’ after staying at the JW Marriott Chicago in July and August.

Apparently my stay in May 2012 will not trigger a warning letter from the hotel regarding the possibility of having been exposed to Legionnaires’ Disease. The news reports indicate the warning letters are going out to 8,500 guests who stayed at the hotel from July 16 to August 15, 2012.

Test results released Friday indicate the primary source of the Legionnaires’ outbreak at the JW Marriott, 151 W. Adams St., was a decorative fountain in the hotel’s main lobby.

Hotel officials have removed the fountain. Tests also showed that the pool, the spa’s whirlpool and both the men’s and women’s locker rooms contained “the same species of Legionella as were found in the ill patients,” according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Those areas “have either been disabled or made inaccessible to the public,” the health department said. Shower heads in guest rooms tested negative for the bacteria.

In addition to the third death, the health department reported two more cases of Legionnaires’ disease linked to the hotel, bringing the total to 10. Those testing positive for the disease visited or stayed at the JW Marriott between July 16 and Aug. 15.

Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia, comes from Legionella bacteria, which can thrive in warm water. Parts of the spa were closed, and the fountain, whirlpool and pool were first drained after three cases of the disease were reported among hotel guests last week.

Health officials do not think there is an ongoing risk of infection at the Marriott.They said the hotel, which remains open, is cooperating with the investigation.

Chicago Tribune Sep 1, 2012

The lobby decorative fountain was the primary fermentation tank for the Legionella bacteria usually found in warm water according to this Sep 1 Chicago Tribune news report. The lobby fountain has been removed from the JW Marriott Chicago hotel.

[This is where my JW Marriott lobby fountain photo should be. Turns out I have no photo of the former fountain in 300 photos of the JW Marriott Chicago hotel on my computer. My memory is the security staff at the hotel were usually standing near the fountain and I was unable to frame a photo without the security staff in the picture. Our first meeting as the press corps began at the lobby fountain. HotelChatter has a picture of the JW Marriott lobby fountain.]

Apparently other hot spots in the hotel for legionella bacteria were the pool, spa tub and spa locker rooms.

Frank Lloyd Wright-JW Marriott 035

JW Marriott’s pool has an innovative UV light design that does not use chlorine.

“Strange brew – kill what’s inside of you.
She’s a witch of trouble in electric blue.” – Cream


Frank Lloyd Wright-JW Marriott 034

JW Marriott Chicago hot tub

JW Marriott 004 - Valeo locker

Locker rooms at Valeo Spa reportedly tested positive for the Legionella bacteria.

JW Marriott 042 Valeo Spa

Reading back over my JW Marriott Chicago VALEO Spa report reveals a prescient comment:

First you sign the form in the unlikely event you die. Standard fitness center stuff, but who reads the fine print in public?

Loyalty Traveler – May 22, 2012


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Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.


Related Loyalty Traveler posts:

Suite Living at JW Marriott Chicago (May 16, 2012)

JW Marriott Chicago – Tour and Wine Ambassador Program (May 21, 2012)

VALEO Spa Experience at JW Marriott Chicago (May 22, 2012)

12th Floor Experiences at JW Marriott Chicago (June 9, 2012)

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. Whoa! That’s crazy. Good thing your visit was a few months before this deadly attack. Really sad for those that contracted this deadly bacteria on a business or leisure trip. That’s why we need to live each day to its fullest.

  2. Ric,

    My now-wife and I stayed there on July 14th (and had a brunch on the morning of the 15th) for our wedding.

    Despite contacting the hotel repeatedly, I am amazed at the misinformation that keeps coming out.

    My wife, who is 32, apparently got Legionnaire’s from being near the fountain on the late evening hours of July 14/early morning of July 15. We were out of the hotel by July 15 at noon.

    Her sister’s father-in-law also got it, though we’re not quite sure from where, and he was out of the hotel by checkout on July 15.

    The hotel’s dates are incorrect, and it infuriates me that they’re excluding people they harmed by only contacting those guests who were there on the 16th and after, when we have 2 confirmed cases who got it no later than July 15th.

    As my wife was literally incapacitated on the last week of our honeymoon in Thailand, and then bedridden for another week, I’m not happy about this whole situation.

    Especially given where the JW Marriott positions itself as a high-end hotel, the response, communicativeness, and lack of empathy from them has really been pretty disappointing.

    If you have any more questions about this, or Marriott’s responsiveness, please feel free to email me.

  3. Hello Loweeel,

    Can you tell me if you informed the hotel that your wife and your sister’s father-in-law contracted Legionnaires disease? And if so, on what date did you inform them?

  4. John, I don’t know when her father in law did, but we were first in touch with the hotel around August 14th. Because we were before their July 16th cut-off, they didn’t contact all the guests, but my mother was contacted by somebody from Chicago Public health around that time.

  5. I contracted it as well. I was at the hotel from the 27th of July to August 2nd. I TOO was never contacted by the hotel, but did receive warning from the Health Dept. of Chicago. After many doctor visits from high fevers, I ended up in ER on October 31…..the bacteria had crossed into my brain. I had a brain abcess! It required brain surgery on Nov. 5th. I could have died and am still suffering with the after effects. HORRIBLE experience. Life altering for me.

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