Travel-associated Legionnaires' disease (LD) is a serious problem, and hundreds of cases are reported every year among travelers who stayed at hotels, despite the efforts of international and governmental authorities and hotel operators to prevent additional cases.
A systematic review of travel-associated LD events (cases, clusters, outbreaks) and of environmental studies of Legionella contamination in accommodation sites was conducted. Two databases were searched (PubMed and EMBASE). Data were extracted from 50 peer-reviewed articles that provided microbiological and epidemiological evidence for linking the accommodation sites with LD. The strength of evidence was classified as strong, possible, and probable.
Three of the 21 hotel-associated events identified and four of nine ship-associated events occurred repeatedly on the same site. Of 197 hotel-associated cases, 158 (80.2%) were linked to hotel cooling towers and/or potable water systems. Ship-associated cases were most commonly linked to hot tubs (59/83, 71.1%). Common contributing factors included inadequate disinfection, maintenance, and monitoring; water stagnation; poor temperature control; and poor ventilation. Across all 30 events, Legionella concentrations in suspected water sources were >10,000 cfu/L, <10,000 cfu/L, and unknown in 11, 3, and 13 events, respectively. In five events, Legionella was not detected only after repeated disinfections. In environmental studies, Legionella was detected in 81.1% of ferries (23/28) and 48.9% of hotels (587/1,200), while all 12 cruise ships examined were negative.
This review highlights the need for LD awareness strategies targeting operators of accommodation sites. Increased standardization of LD investigation and reporting, and more rigorous follow-up of LD events, would help generate stronger, more comparable evidence on LD sources, contributing factors, and control measure effectiveness.