Officials: Harmful bacteria at Playboy Mansion

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The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 1, 2011; 8:50 PM

LOS ANGELES -- The bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease were found at the Playboy Mansion during an investigation into an illness that affected about 200 people who attended an event there last month, a health official said Tuesday.

Other infection sources have not been ruled out as the cause of the illness because the bacteria Legionella is common in moist places, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health director Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding said.

"We are still considering several possible causes of illness," Fielding said in a prepared statement.

County health officials opened an investigation Feb. 11 after attendees of an Internet conference reported symptoms mostly consisting of fever, chills, malaise and coughing.

In a statement, Playboy spokeswoman Teri Thomerson said people at the mansion, which is listed as an asset of the media company, were cooperating with the investigation.

"To date, there have been no confirmed cases of any respiratory or other illness arising out of any Playboy Mansion function," Thomerson said in the statement.

Hefner has not left his residence, she said.

"There has never been any reason for him to evacuate during this investigation." Thomerson said.

The DOMAINfest Global Conference took place Feb. 1-3 with events at several hotels and a fundraiser at the Holmby Hills estate where Playboy founder Hugh Hefner resides.

About 700 people from 30 countries attended lectures and workshops at the conference. The county is investigating the outbreak with state and federal health officials to track illness outside Los Angeles.

Health officials declined comment on where the bacteria were discovered at the mansion, calling it only a water source. That could mean anywhere from a kitchen tap to the famed grotto, where Playboy bunnies have mingled with guests in a hot tub.

Legionnaires' disease causes respiratory illness and its symptoms include coughing, malaise, chills and fever. Fewer than 18,000 Americans are hospitalized for the illness every year.

In annual financial filings, Playboy said the mansion is used for corporate activities, film and television production, magazine photography and charitable and civic functions.

At least one major event is planned at the sprawling 29-room mansion in coming months. Hefner, 84, intends to marry fiancee Crystal Harris, 24, at the mansion this summer.

© 2011 The Associated Press