Exposure to Things That Can Kill You: Legionnaire’s Disease or a Deadly Virus – Who Is Responsible and How Can You Be Safe?

Exposure to Things That Can Kill You: Legionnaire’s Disease or a Deadly Virus – Who Is Responsible and How Can You Be Safe?

Exposure to things that can kill you or your loved ones: it happens every day in America.  However, right now the news reports are popping up about major exposures to large numbers of people — at hotels like the Chicago Mariott or staying in popular vacation spots like Yosemite National Park — that are threatening thousands of lives.

Legionnaire’s Disease Exposure in Chicago Marriott: 8500 People Known to Be at Risk

Right now, loved ones are grieving the lost of two people who died after being exposed to Legionnaire’s Disease while staying at the Chicago Mariott. Six other people are still alive but suffering from the Chicago outbreak of Legionnaire’s during their hotel stay.    Anyone staying at the popular hotel between July 16, 2012, and August 16, 2012, is at risk of becoming ill from exposure to Legionnaire’s Disease — and that means over 8,500 guests at the JW Marriott  are at risk.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Legionnaire’s Disease is pneumonia, but a very serious kind of pneumonia: a “super” pneumonia, if you will, that is caused by exposure to legionella bacteria.   People breathe in the bacteria, and the bacteria causes an infection in the body that results in lung inflammation.   Sometimes, people don’t get sick enough from the bacteria to get full-out Legionnaire’s Disease; instead, they get a milder version called “Pontiac Fever.”  Pontiac Fever doesn’t kill people; Legionnaire’s Disease does.  Legionnaire’s Disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), will kill up to 30% of those exposed.

Deadly Virus Exposure in Yosemite National Park Threatens Over 1700 People

At the same time, family and friends are grieving over the deaths of two people who were exposed to a toxic virus and then died from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome — all from exposure during their vacation time in Yosemite National Park.  HPS is caused by exposure to rodent feces, urine, and saliva. In other words, rats or mice.

It’s not known exactly how these people caught HPS during their stay in Yosemite’s cabins, but it is known that humans can get hantavirus from rodents from all kinds of exposure:

  • breathing in the hantavirus;
  • getting bit by the rodent (rare);
  • touching something that has been contaminated with hantavirus-infected urine, droppings, or saliva, and then spreading that hantavirus by then touching their mouth or nose;
  • eating something that a rodent infected with the hantavirus has contaminated with its saliva, its urine, or its droppings.

Over 1700 people may have been exposed to the same deadly circumstance, according to official reports. All of these people at risk will have stayed in the “Signature Tent Cabins” in Yosemite’s Curry Village sometime during this summer (since June).

Right now, the CDC is reporting that two other people have become sick from this hantavirus and it appears that the experts are predicting that more people who spent time in these cabins will also become ill (or have become ill but haven’t been reported yet) from this exposure. It has a reported fatality rate of 38%.

Who Is Responsible?

In these situations, where people who were guests in either park cabins or fancy hotel rooms ended up dying or seriously ill just because they stayed in those facilities, both state and federal laws come into play to try and find justice for these victims and their families. Sadly, wrongful death statutes under state law can apply to the tragic situations where people died from their exposure.

Personal injury law forms the cornerstone of these actions.  Specifically, premises liability laws come into play.  Those who invited people to come and stay are responsible for the safety and welfare of their guests. Hotels, motels, executive suites, bed and breakfasts — these are all businesses who take on the risk of being sued by their guests for injuries and accidents sustained on their premises in exchange for being in the business of providing guest quarters to their clientele.

One twist with the rodent exposure, though, is the fact that the invitation to stay in the cabins came from a governmental entity since Yosemite National Park is a federal park. Of course, other parties may be involved here: for example, early news reports are that a third-party company contracting with the government as a concessionaire was already on site, disinfecting the cabins.

Governments are sometimes protected by immunity statutes, and sometimes have special laws in place to cover these situations and how claims are made (and what is covered).  Private companies, including third party companies that contract with the government, may not have immunity protections and can be sued under the appropriate state law for damages sustained by both the victim and his loved ones from the exposure.

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