As the world opens up again, the travel industry is booming, and hotels and resorts are gearing up to welcome guests again. While hotels have implemented stricter cleaning measures to provide a safe and healthy environment for guests, an unseen risk can put guests and employees at risk: Legionnaires’ disease.
The CDC reported that between 2015 and 2019, there were 208 outbreaks linked to pools and hot tubs that resulted in 3,646 infections, 286 hospitalizations, and 13 deaths. Legionella was among the most common cause of these outbreaks and was the source of all the recorded deaths during the five years reported. Nearly all documented outbreaks (96%) were associated with public pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds. Hotels and resorts accounted for 34% of outbreaks, most originating in hot tubs (70%) versus pools. Cooling towers, showers, spas, and decorative fountains are also sources for Legionella to grow and spread. According to the CDC, most outbreaks occurred in June, July, and August.
Legionella can cause a severe type of pneumonia, called Legionnaires’ disease, or a less severe illness, Pontiac fever, which can cause flu-like symptoms. According to the CDC, people age 50 and older, current (or former) smokers, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a lung infection from the bacteria.
Water Management Programs Prevent Legionnaires’ Outbreaks
A Legionnaires’ disease outbreak’s financial and reputational costs can be significant for a hotel or resort. An outbreak may interrupt services, diminish the guest experience, and lead to legal action, putting the business at risk. Insureds must employ a robust water management program to mitigate the possibility of an outbreak. This includes:
- Identifying areas in a building where Legionella could grow and spread
- Reducing risk by managing and monitoring the water system
- Taking action when risks are identified
Hotel management should assign an individual to take overall responsibility for controlling the risks from Legionella within the property. In addition, other hotel staff should also receive Legionella training to ensure they understand how they can reduce the risks.
While celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary at a Las Vegas hotel, a guest contracted Legionella bacteria using the hotel’s jacuzzi. The guest was hospitalized but unfortunately passed away only a week later. The investigation revealed that the hotel had been aware of Legionella in its water system for several months before the guest’s stay and, as such, was directly responsible for her death. The victim’s family received a multi-million-dollar settlement as compensation.
How to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease in Hotels and Resorts
- Ensure water heaters are correctly maintained and that the temperature is correctly set.
- Flush hot and cold water through all points of use (e.g., showers, sink faucets) to replace all water inside the building’s piping with fresh water.
- Clean all decorative water features, such as fountains.
- Ensure hot tubs/spas are safe for use.
- Ensure cooling towers are clean and well-maintained.
- Ensure safety equipment including fire sprinkler systems, eyewash stations, and safety showers are clean and well-maintained.
- Perform maintenance on the water system.
The CDC provides several resources to assist hotels in inhibiting Legionella growth that you can share with your insureds: Water Management Toolkit, Preventing Legionnaires’ Disease: A Training on Legionella Water Management Programs, and Considerations for Hotel Owners and Managers: How to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease.
We have also created a handy Legionella Risk Management guide to help.
Learn More About Distinguished’s Hotel Insurance
Hotels and resorts are a hotbed for Legionella exposures, so it’s essential that your clients have the right coverage in the event of an incident. Distinguished offers no exclusion for Legionella in their Hotel Primary program. In addition, we offer follow-form Legionella coverage in our Hotel Umbrella program. If you have questions about the particulars of Distinguished’s hotel insurance offerings, please get in touch with our team so we can clarify how we can help you get your clients the best possible insurance program for their hotel or resort.
If you’re interested in taking the next steps with Distinguished, you can register your agency here or explore our insurance packages on our hotel programs page.
About Distinguished Programs
Distinguished Programs is a leading national insurance Program Manager providing specialized insurance programs to brokers and agents with specific expertise in Real Estate, Community Associations, Environmental and Construction Pollution, Fine Art and Collectibles, Hotels, and Restaurants. Property and liability products are distributed through a national network of agents and brokers. Serving the same core markets and partnering with the most stable and reputable carriers, Distinguished Programs’ high-limit umbrella programs remain the clear choice in its areas of specialty for superior coverage, competitive pricing, and attentive service. Through thoughtful innovation, stemming back to 1995, Distinguished Programs fosters growth and opportunities for its brokers, carriers, and employees.