Legionella Bacteria Found in the Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel

Health Ministry orders hotel to immediately address problem in water system; the bacteria is the source of the infectious 'Legionnaires’ disease.

Assaf Evron

The Health Ministry has ordered the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv to immediately address a problem of Legionella bacteria, after inspectors discovered the potentially fatal bacteria in the water system located in the hotel's lower floors.

The bacteria were discovered in the wake of the recent diagnosis of three patients with Legionnaires’ disease. The apparent connection among them is the fact that they used showers and bathrooms in the lower floors of the Hilton. The Health Ministry consequently checked the hotel’s water installations. Results received Wednesday confirmed that they did in fact contain the bacteria. The ministry emphasizes that the water system is separate from that of the hotel rooms, and they are continuing to investigate.

The legionella bacteria is the source of the infectious “Legionnaires’ disease,” which is characterized by symptoms that include high fever, coughing, phlegm, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting, confusion and memory loss. In certain instances the disease can damage the kidneys and liver or develop into pneumonia.

The at-risk group for contracting Legionnaires’ disease includes the elderly, people suffering from chronic lung ailments and people with defective immune systems. A small percentage of those exposed to the bacteria fall ill, mainly those in the at-risk group, but the disease is not contagious.

The natural environment in which these bacteria are active is water, mainly hot water. Accordingly, legionnella bacteria are more common in Jacuzzis and hot springs, but are also found in large cooling and pipe systems. The disease is common in places such as ships, saunas, hospitals and hotels. According to Health Ministry guidelines, the normal presence of legionella bacteria in water is 250 bacteria per liter at most. A higher concentration of 250-1,000 bacteria per liter requires reporting and treatment, while the presence of 10,000 or more bacteria per liter requires special attention: discontinuing operation and repairing the defect.