Airbnb immediately took steps to remove a Gozo farmhouse listing after it was informed that a 45-year-old man had died of Legionella contracted while on holiday, a company spokesperson has told Times of Malta.
The holiday letting giant was reacting to a report that the widow of Paul Bermingham, Sandra, was seeking damages from Airbnb after her husband’s untimely death.
The Bermingham family were on a Gozo holiday over Christmas between 2015 and 2016, staying in a rented farmhouse they had booked and paid for over the Airbnb letting platform.
Less than two weeks later, on January 14, 2016, Paul died from Legionella Pneumonia in the United Kingdom, leaving behind his wife and two children.
His death certificate determined that the disease was contracted from contaminated jacuzzi water, the family’s lawyer in Malta, Peter Fenech, said.
“We were heartbroken to learn of this tragic incident at the time and our thoughts remain with the Bermingham family following such an unimaginable loss. We remain in touch with the family’s representatives on this matter,” a spokesperson for Airbnb said.
“As soon as this was brought to our attention at the time, we removed the listing from the platform.
“The safety of our community is a priority and with more than one billion guest arrivals in Airbnb listings to date, isolated incidents are exceptionally rare.”
Legionella is bacteria that can cause a serious type of pneumonia called Legionnaires disease.
According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, outbreaks have been linked to the use of hot tubs or jacuzzis.
Their water temperatures fall within the most favourable range for the bacteria to multiply, create aerosols and accelerate the decay of disinfectants that are typically used to eliminate it.
To prevent the spread of Legionella, the CDC recommends that hot tubs have automatic feed and control systems that maintain the proper amounts of disinfectant and pH in the water, as well as ensure easy access to the mechanical and filtration components of the system for routine maintenance.
According to the World Health Organization, Legionella is most commonly contracted from the inhalation of contaminated aerosols or water.
Sources of aerosols or water that have been linked with Legionella transmission include air conditioning cooling towers, hot and cold water systems, humidifiers and whirlpool spas.
To date, there has been no reported direct human-to-human transmission.
A non-pneumonic form of Legionella is a limited illness similar to influenza that typically lasts two to five days, with symptoms including fever, chills, headaches, malaise and muscle pain, the WHO says.
The pneumonic form of the disease has a longer incubation period of up to 10 days and includes similar symptoms as well as loss of appetite, diarrhoea and confusion. Most patients first develop a mild cough and the severity could stretch to rapidly fatal pneumonia.
There is no vaccine for Legionella but the disease can usually be successfully tackled with antibiotic treatment.
Overall, the death rate is usually in the range of five to 10 per cent.