Bacterial Disease Legionnaires Infects Guests at World Series of Poker Host Resort

Posted on: June 12, 2017, 12:00h. 

Last updated on: June 12, 2017, 12:55h.

The bacterial disease Legionnaires has been discovered inside a hot water heating system at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

bacteria disease Legionnaires Rio WSOP
Two guests staying at the Rio, which is currently hosting the World Series of Poker, have fallen ill to Legionnaires’ disease. (Image:

Currently hosting the 48th World Series of Poker (WSOP), health officials tested water heaters at the Caesars-owned property after two guests who stayed at the resort on different occasions reported infections. One system was found to be contaminated with the bacterium, and the hotel is currently disinfecting the boiler furnace and its pipes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Legionnaires’ disease is a form of bacteria that arises in freshwater environments such as lakes and streams. It can become a threat when it spreads into human-made water systems like showers and faucets, cooling towers, hot tubs, and plumbing systems.

Legionnaires is typically easily controlled with antibiotics. However, smokers, and those with preexisting conditions like chronic lung disease and cancers, are at risk of death due to complications.

In a statement, Caesars Entertainment said, “The company is working closely with the Southern Nevada Health District and taking aggressive remediation actions to ensure the safety of Rio’s water.”

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease includes coughing, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches. The WSOP has carried on uninterrupted, with the $10,000 Main Event scheduled to put cards in the air on July 8.

Legionnaire Breakouts

Legionnaires gets its name from its first known breakout. The year was 1976 when 182 of the more than 2,000 guests at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia came down with pneumonia-like symptoms. Twenty-nine died as a result.

Legionnaires making an appearance at Rio isn’t the first time the bacterial disease infiltrated a casino resort.

In fact, it was only in April that Macau’s Parisian reported three cases of Legionnaires. Las Vegas Sands’ $2.7 billion resort opened just last fall, and some seven months later, made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Most healthy people who are exposed to Legionnaires do not get sick, which is why there’s only been two reported cases from the Rio contamination. Those who acquire the bacteria also aren’t contagious, as it doesn’t spread from person-to-person contact.

Little Concern in Las Vegas

For any relatively healthy guest traveling to Las Vegas, there isn’t much reason to be alarmed over the threat of acquiring Legionnaires. It’s a rare disease that needs optimal conditions to survive.

“The two things that legionella bacteria need to grow and reproduce are: a water temperature of 68-113F and impurities in the water that the bacteria can use for food, such as rust, algae, and limescale,” the UK National Health Service explains.

Legionnaires’ disease prevents graver worries when it enters a hospital, which isn’t exactly uncommon. The CDC says 25 percent of patients who become affected by the bacteria die in medical settings. That’s 2.5 times more than the 10 percent of the general population that die due to Legionnaires.

In a statement, the Southern Nevada Health District said, “Guests who stayed at the Rio more than two weeks ago and have not developed symptoms are not at risk for disease.”