A Minnesota woman catches rare disease from Albert Lea hotel; her family says she on a ventilator


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ALBERT LEA, MINN. (KTTC) — An Alden woman is in the hospital after catching a rare disease from a hotel spa in Albert Lea.

On Friday, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) said it’s investigating cases of Legionnaires‘ disease at the Ramada by Wyndham Hotel.

MDH said there are two confirmed cases related to the hotel.

Lexy Munkberg, of Albert Lea, posted on social media that her mother, Lori Haler was diagnosed with the disease.

“They stayed in a hotel. The Ramada. Down in Albert Lea, the 27th to the 29th and after that stay she started getting sick,” she said.

She said Lori and her boyfriend stayed at the hotel and got in the hot tub. Within days Lori developed symptoms.

“She couldn’t walk. She physically could not get out of bed without my help and being able to lift her up and walk behind her holding her up,” said Lilly Haler, Lori’s daughter.

She said the symptoms got worse.

“She was like having a hard time breathing. And she couldn’t keep her eyes open. She couldn’t do it and I was terrified,” Lily said.

This disease is a type of pneumonia that was first discovered in 1976 after an outbreak in Philadelphia infected more than a hundred people.

Lori’s boyfriend, James Muller, also experienced symptoms. He died last week, but Munkberg said the family is waiting on autopsy results to know the cause of his death.

“We’re telling her to be strong and be brave. She doesn’t really need to hear it because she already is,” Munkberg said.

“The Legionaries disease is caused by bacteria. The bacteria lives in water. All kinds of water. But in particular when bacteria that multiplies in man-made water sources that are warm and stagnant,” said Richard Danila, of the Minnesota Department of Health.

Such as hot tubs, spas, and cooling towers.

“When the water gets aerosolized when you breathe it in deep into your lungs. You can get infected with the bacteria and develop this very severe respiratory disease. Typically it results in pneumonia and most people in the hospital. About a third of them end up on a ventilator, it can be quite severe, and about 10 percent will die,” said Danila.

He said there were also cases of the disease in the past that was related to the hotel.

“In the past four years, I think we had four other cases,” Danila said.

He said MDH has alerted other states of the issue, in case hotel guests from out of state get ill. People who have stayed in the hotel have been notified as well.

“It is an older spa. It’s a smaller one,” Danila said. “The environmental health sanitarians have inspected it, really don’t think it can be made safe again. We’re recommending that it be removed completely.”

Anyone who stayed at the hotel and gets ill should get checked for the disease.

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