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Limerick man dies after contracting Legionnaires at top class US hotel on holidays


Tom Keane

Tom Keane

Tom Keane

AN Irishman has died after contracting Legionnaires' disease in a US hotel during a holiday.

Tom Keane (66) from Janesboro, Limerick died at the Mid-Western regional hospital in Limerick yesterday after succumbing to his illness.

He contracted the disease while in a four star hotel in Chicago.

The infection has already claimed the lives of two other people and eight other people are said to have contracted the disease at the JW Marriott Chicago hotel in downtown Chicago.

Mr Keane – a father of three – travelled to Chicago with his wife Olive for their 40th wedding anniversary. Their son, Shane (29) worked there for the summer and his parents decided to travel to Illinois to visit him. It is understood he was not staying at the JW Marriott hotel, but had stopped off their briefly when he contracted the illness.

Grieving son, Fr Richard Keane – who is based in Newcastle West, Co Limerick – said the family were “absolutely devastated” with Tom’s death.

“He would do anything for anybody. As a plumber, he would help everyone out. He would do work for elderly members of the community for nothing,” Fr Keane said.

Mr Keane worked all his life with Limerick City Council initially as a plumber, then later as a supervisor in the Rathbane maintenance depot before retiring in 2010.

“For the last 40 years, he gave Olive breakfast in bed every morning,” his son said.

“He drove her everywhere, he hoovered and polished the house. They were absolutely inseparable.”

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“When my father went out on a Friday night, he would go with Olive. His family was his life,” Fr Keane added.

The disease is caused by a water-borne Legionella bacteria which is contracted by breathing in a warm mist or vapor contaminated with the bacteria.

It is not spread from one person to another. Symptoms include cough, high fever, chest pain and shortness of breath.

Next door neighbour to the deceased, Ger Fahy said all in Janesboro were terribly upset when they learnt of Mr Keane’s death.

“He was a perfect gentleman and a great community man who lived here all his life,” Mr Fahy said.

Those infected in Chicago were between the ages of 49 and 82 and were exposed to the bacteria between July 16 and August 15.

Another victim included a Florida physician who was initially thought to have died from pneumonia until an autopsy confirming Legionnaires' disease.

The JW Marriott hotel has since drained its pool, hot tub and fountain in response to the deaths and is working alongside the Chicago Department of Public Health as part of an ongoing investigation.

It is not yet known where the bacteria originated.

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