DAVIE (CBS4) — Barbara and Howard Neu are back at home in west Davie, but the couple still has not recovered from last week’s fundraiser at the Playboy mansion in Los Angeles.

They are two were with more than 90 people who are now complaining of a respiratory illness following exposure to a fog machine used at the party.

Most of the people sickened were in LA for a conference on Internet businesses called Domainfest Global where some 700 people from 30 countries attended and who also attended the party and several of the same outdoor events.

The weather was in the low 40s so the Neus assumed they just caught the flu, but days after the party at Hugh Hefner’s home many of the partygoers went on Facebook and complained about the same symptoms.

“One of the fellas at the conference, he put on Facebook that he had been very sick, and he was wondering how many other people had been sick,” said Howard Neu. “All of the sudden the list started growing like mad and it was already up to 50, 60 people.”

The Neus said some of the attendees have been diagnosed with a mild form of Legionnaires’ disease.

The Centers for Disease Control said Legionnaires typically is caused by a bacterium that grows in warm water. That fact has led some of the partygoers to suspect the fog machine at the party as the culprit.

Health officials at the LA Health Department on Saturday have not pinpointed the exact cause, but they were investigating complaints of respiratory illnesses. The Department of Public Health issued a statement Saturday saying only that it was investigating a suspected respiratory infection outbreak among conference attendees on the west side of Los Angeles County.

The Los Angeles Times said there were reports that dozens of people were sickened after the event at the L.A. mansion, but neither the newspaper nor county health officials cited a specific number of cases.

The department sent an e-mail with a survey Friday to all who attended the Feb. 3 event, saying that they had received reports of problems including pneumonia, the newspaper said after talking to participants.

It is an illness that hit Barbara Neu hard.

“All of the sudden it hit me like a ton of bricks,” she said. “Where I could hardly stand up and I said to him I need to go sit in the car because I’m gonna fall down.”

The county statement said investigators were looking into the cause, extent and potential sources of the illness, but did not believe it spread beyond the people who attended.

“Public Health has no information suggesting that this suspected outbreak extends beyond those individuals associated with this conference,” the statement said.

Officials from the department would give no further details on the investigation.

Representatives from Playboy and the conference did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (4)
  1. Jimbo99 says:

    Personally, I highly doubt the smoke machine was what happened here ? They probably came in contact with a carrier and it spread as these people mingled. Perhaps even a food preparer or server or few may have been carriers ?

  2. Layla says:

    “They are two were with more than 90 people who are now complaining…”

  3. BC2011 says:

    If it was a carrier and a person-to-person illness then I think they would be concerned about other contacts of the conference attendees but as they are not I think that is much less likely. Legionnaires is not contagious which adds to the plausibility of this diagnosis. Idk if it was the smoke machine, but there had to be some common source.

  4. Diana Jackson says:

    The count is now 170, the LA Heath Dept and CDC are looking into it. People were
    being told that their symptoms were bacterial and there were cases of pneumonia
    that developed rapidly. We are just laymen trying to make logical judgement. For
    that many people to get sick all at once you would have to consider an airborne
    source. The fog from the fog machine was so thick you could not get a decent
    photo. The damp heavy air from the fog machine (which had set unused for a month) would make a perfect carrier. We could be wrong but something happened and believe me you do not want this bug, some people are still quite ill
    after a week.

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