This man spent last year flushing hundreds of toilets. The new fear as the pandemic wanes: Legionnaires' disease


LAS VEGAS – Michael Hurtado spent the past year of the pandemic flushing toilets. Once a week. Hundreds of toilets. Thousands of times.

“Every week, we go through the entire property and flush every toilet, run every hand sink, turn on every shower. You start at one end of the floor, and by the time you get back, you can turn them off,” he said.

Hurtado is the lead engineer for the Ahern Hotel, right off the Las Vegas strip. It’s  officially been closed during the pandemic, and Hurtado had the job of keeping the building systems safe despite the lack of guests.

“It easily takes 60 hours a week every single week for my team,” he said.

Keeping water moving is necessary to protect shut-down buildings against pathogens that can build up in their miles of pipes.

The one that keeps safety experts up at night is Legionella pneumophila, the bacteria that causes 95% of Legionnaires’ disease cases. It kills at least 1,000 Americans a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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