The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to American Cruise Lines after 3 passengers got Legionnaire’s disease and the company failed to adequately treat the ships’ drinking water.
The first confirmed case of Legionnaire’s disease was reported in April 2021, with two more cases reported in September and October 2021.
Between April and August 2022, FDA inspectors tested the drinking water on the American Star and American Heritage and found ongoing evidence of Legionella bacteria.
Shockingly, 93% of water samples on the American Star tested positive for Legionella bacteria in April 2022, including samples taken from showerheads in the rooms for passengers and crew.
In June 2022, multiple samples of drinking water from showerheads and faucets on the American Heritage also tested positive for Legionella, according to the FDA.
Despite problems with Legionella contamination and illnesses, the FDA said that American Cruise Lines failed to take adequate stops to treat the ships’ water supply.
“After being notified of two confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease with travel onboard the American Heritage, you did not change your procedures for flushing or disinfection and did not perform potable water or environmental sampling,” the FDA wrote.
The FDA was also concerned about waterborne disease outbreaks on 15 other ships owned by American Cruise Lines. “It would not be appropriate to wait until there is a confirmed case of Legionnaires’ disease to address the water practices onboard those other vessels.”
Legionnaire’s disease is a type of pneumonia (lung infection) that is caused by the bacteria Legionella. The lung infection has a 10% mortality rate, according to the CDC.
Legionnaire’s disease is particularly dangerous for people over 50 years old. The most common way that people are infected is by breathing Legionella bacteria in the air on tiny droplets of water that are produced by showerheads, water faucets, or hot tubs.