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Bacteria That Grow In Hot Tubs Linked To Playboy Mansion Outbreak

Earlier this month, dozens of people who attended a conference at the Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion in California became ill. According to the Los Angeles Times, they complained of respiratory problems, flu-like symptoms and pneumonia.

The paper reports that public health officials are looking into the outbreak, but by talking to those afflicted and their doctors, the Times has learned that "their symptoms stemmed from legionellosis, or Pontiac fever."

The Times reports:

A milder form of Legionnaires' disease, legionellosis is caused by a bacterium that grows in warm water and can take root in hot tubs or parts of air-conditioning systems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria are not spread from person to person, according to the CDC, but are instead inhaled in water vapor. Some of those who became ill said they suspected a fog machine that was used at the party.

David Castello, 54, who co-founded Castello Cities Internet Network Inc. with his brother Michael, said they attended the conference and fundraiser. Castello told the Los Angeles Times he became ill a day after the event.

"It knocked me off my feet for five days," he said. "I'm over it now, but I'm still feeling fatigue, which is not a good thing."

ABC News reports that outbreaks of legionnaire's disease are not common.

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.