Wake Forest, North Carolina — A woman with Legionnaires’ disease says a WRAL News story helped lead to her diagnosis.
It comes after Wake County health officials identified three cases of Legionnaires’ disease linked to a spa at a Wake Forest hotel.
Mary Massenburg said that when she first came to WakeMed, the doctors didn’t know why she was so sick.
In May, Massenburg attended a pool party at the Clarion Hotel in Wake Forest.
“All I wanted was a pool birthday party,” Massenburg said of his granddaughter’s 10th birthday.
The family checked in on Sunday May 29th and checked out on Monday May 30th. Massenburg said everything was fine until Monday night.
“Monday night I started coughing … early Tuesday morning I started having a fever,” Massenburg described.
Massenburg thought he had been through the disease before, thinking it was coronavirus.
“My husband died in January of COVID,” she said. “Any sign of COVID, we are terrified.”
But, his multiple COVID-19 tests came back negative. At the same time, however, Massenburg’s oxygen levels were reaching critical levels.
Doctors wanted to perform a tracheotomy on Massenburg, but on the very night of those discussions, her daughter and granddaughter watched the latest WRAL newscasts. They learned that the Wake County Public Health Department found three cases of Legionnaires’ disease at the hotel where they stayed.
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by a type of bacteria called Legionella that is usually found in water. The disease is not spread from person to person, but the bacteria are spread through dew, coming from showers, hot tubs, and air conditioning units. People can become infected when they breathe in tiny droplets of water that contain the bacteria, says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms include cough, fever, chills, headaches, and muscle aches. Most healthy people who are exposed to the bacteria do not get sick. Being age 50 or older or having certain risk factors can increase your chances of getting sick.
Experts later determined that the source of the bacteria inside the Wake Forest Clarion came from the hotel’s spa.
Armed with that information, Massenburg’s doctors began treating her for the disease.
Days later he began to feel much better and is now back at work.
“Even though I didn’t see it, that report saved my life,” Massenburg said.
Massenburg’s son was also ill. He received treatment for Legionnaires’ disease and has since recovered.
A spokesperson for the county health department said the spa was closed and drained, which included cleaning the spa’s water system.
WRAL News contacted Clarion Hotel but received no response.