CT woman contracts legionnaires while on vacation
Posted June 21
Uncasville, CT — A Connecticut couple took a dream vacation to the Caribbean that turned into a real-life nightmare.
Shirley Horan, of Uncasville, came home feeling sick and kept getting worse. Doctors diagnosed her with legionnaire's disease.
"I couldn't physically talk, I couldn't breathe to talk and that was the scary part," Horan said.
The Centers for Disease Control says that legionnaires has a 9 percent mortality rate but that progresses with age or a compromised immune system.
She spent 11 days in the intensive care unit at Backus Hospital when she got back from vacation.
After initially thinking it was the flu, doctors said she had contracted legionnaires.
Shirley and her husband John Horan had just gone to Punta Cana on the coast of the Dominican Republic at the end of April to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.
"Well I definitely think I picked it up from the hotel," Shirley Horan said.
They stayed at a five-star hotel and never expected any problems.
"Legionnaires is a bacterium that grows in water and fresh water but particularly it grows in complex heating and cooling systems that involve water," said Dr. Jack Ross, of Hartford Hospital chief of the Infectious Disease Department.
The Horans said it had rained for a good portion of their vacation, and the conditions at the hotel were unsanitary.
"It's not transmitted person to person which is a good thing. It would have come from the AC, the pool, or the jacuzzi." Ross said.
New York City had an outbreak recently where an elderly man passed away, but contracting it depends on the environment you are in. Doctors say it is not contagious.
"There is a mortality rate attached to it and you can't avoid it because you don't know where it is," John Horan said.
The Horans have been working with a lawyer that specializes in legionnaires cases, but since the hotel is based in another country the lawyer says the likelihood of a just outcome is low.
Medical expenses have been around $80,000. It's been around $7,000 out of pocket. They would just like to see the $7,000 they spent on the trip back.
"If I was 70 or 80 I may not have made it, and there's a lot of people that don't make it, and it's not fair that because you go to another country you can't fight," Shirley Horan said.
Eyewitness News reached out to the hotel where the couple stayed but did not hear back.
The state and the CDC have recorded the case.
The Horan family is continuing to follow up with their legal options, but in the meantime they want to put the word out that these dangers do exist especially when traveling abroad.