SoCal couple battle Legionnaires’ disease after stay at Aloft San Jose Cupertino; bacteria found in swimming pool, hot tub

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — The bacterium responsible for Legionnaire’s disease was discovered in the spa of a hotel in San Jose.

Santa Clara County health officials confirmed they tested a swimming pool and hot tub at Aloft San Jose Cupertino after a couple staying at the hotel contracted legionnaires’ disease.

The spa is currently closed and undergoing decontamination.

Long Beach residents Dan and Rita Miles visited San Jose June 25-26. The trip was meant to be a sweet start for their youngest daughter and her family moving out of state.

“We actually looked and said, ‘Since it’s going to be hot, why don’t we stay at the hotel near you, and we use the pool and the jacuzzi and things like that,'” he said. Dan at ABC7 News.

Days later, the couple’s 911 call landed both at a Long Beach hospital diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.

VIDEO: What is Legionnaires’ disease? Everything you need to know about transmission, symptoms and more

“At one o’clock on Saturday morning, I heard Dan get up to go to the bathroom. As he walked past our bed, I heard he was struggling to breathe. And I realized: “Oh my God, if I don’t call 911, there are only two of us here,” Rita recalled. “He’s not able to call 911. We need help.”

They had experienced exhaustion, stomach aches, fever and more in the previous days. These are symptoms the couple initially thought were related to food poisoning.

“I resisted going to the ER thinking I’m really tired. It will pass,” Dan said. “And frankly, I really don’t remember Wednesday.”

Rita said they were both severely dehydrated. Dan had acute kidney damage, later reversed.

“My urine was red when I got to the ER,” Rita explained. “And the doctor just looked at him and said, ‘You’re severely dehydrated. “”

Rita, a nurse, was hospitalized for five days. Dan spent nine days in hospital, four of them on a ventilator.

According to the couple, an x-ray revealed that Dan’s lungs were completely white.

“People kept saying, ‘I know he has a negative COVID test. It must be COVID. These are COVID lungs. They’re COVID lungs,'” Rita recalls. “And actually, it’s not. It’s Legionella bacteria. And it’s bacteria that just grows in your lungs.”

The couple said their three daughters immediately thought back to the visit in late June and contacted public health officials in Santa Clara County and Aloft San Jose Cupertino.

The county has since tested the hotel’s pool and hot tub.

RELATED: Deadly Legionnaires’ Outbreak Linked to Contaminated Napa Co. Hotel Cooling Tower: Official

A joint response from the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health (DEH) and the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health (PHD) reads:

“Upon receiving a complaint of possible exposure to Legionella in the Aloft San Jose Cupertino pool and spa areas, DEH immediately initiated an investigation. DEH inspected the pool and spa areas, which are DEH licensed areas An environmental health specialist took samples from the hotel’s pool, spa, fill valves, and recirculation equipment, as recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines in consultation with the California Department of Public Health.

Among the samples taken at the hotel, a sample taken from the spa filter confirmed the presence of Legionella (Legionella pneumophila), which was confirmed in the test results. The spa is closed as it undergoes the specific decontamination process recommended by the CDC. The hotel will notify DEH when the decontamination process is complete, and the spa will be resampled to verify that there is no presence of Legionella before the spa is allowed to reopen. No additional cases linked to the hotel have been reported to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.”

SCCPHD has confirmed that there have been nine cases of legionellosis reported in Santa Clara County in 2022, as of August 9.

Cases are reported based on the county of residence of individuals, so miles are not counted in the nine cases reported in Santa Clara County.

An official inspection shared with ABC7 News found no detectable levels of chlorine in water samples taken at Aloft San Jose Cupertino.

Such disinfectants are necessary to reduce the risk of spreading germs like Legionella.

RELATED: Napa County Officials Say Legionnaires Outbreak Is Linked To 2 Other Sites

Part of the official inspection shared with ABC7 News, noted, “No additional containers of chlorine or muriatic were available on site to manually service the spa.”

The document named a staff member at the office facilities/pool service said: “They ran out of chemicals and asked the pool service company to bring in additional products, due to the shortage, the products chemicals were due to arrive on 05/07/22.”

In response, Rita shared, “Please don’t let that be the reason you’re not testing. Just because you’re not putting chlorine in it doesn’t mean the pool hasn’t need to be tested. You need to have records you need to maintain. These are people’s lives that we are dealing with.

Going forward, she plans to carry chlorine test strips in her suitcase – a level of security she hopes hotel officials take seriously on future stays.

Meanwhile, recovery continues for Dan. He has lost 45 pounds since his diagnosis.

“I start doing physical exercise around the house and things like that,” he described. “And I’m fine until about one or two in the afternoon. But every day I push myself a little further.”

The two credit the work their daughters have done in reaching out to Long Beach and Santa Clara County health officials, as well as the hotel.

“We raised three wonderful daughters,” Dan explained.

ABC7 News has reached out to Aloft San Jose Cupertino and Marriott for comment, but has yet to receive a response.

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