200 Reported Ill After Playboy Mansion Party

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Two days after partying and networking at a conference Feb. 3 in Los Angeles, David Castello suddenly fell ill with uncontrollable chills and a 102 degree fever. Part of the conference took place at the Playboy Mansion.

"I went from zero to not a good place in 15 to 20 minutes," said Castello. "It was like somebody flipped a switch."

Castello, co-founder of Castello Cities Internet Network, was among the hundreds of people to get sick after the conference.

But could the Playboy Mansion, a place of lurid fantasies, really have such an adverse effect on a person's physical health? For some, it is the dream of all dreams to hit up a shindig at Hugh Hefner's famous bachelor pad.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said approximately 200 partygoers there, including Castello, became sick with flu-like symptoms. At least four were diagnosed with a mild form of Legionnaire's disease, a type of pneumonia characterized by fever, headaches and achiness all over.

Now health officials are combing the premises trying to locate the source of a relatively common bug that made these revelers uncommonly ill.

Legionella pneumophila

Legionella pneumophila, or LP, are bacteria that cause Legionnaire's disease. They are found naturally in the environment, usually in warm water, like that in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks and large plumbing systems.

"This infection is self-limited and does not require antibiotic therapy," said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief medical editor. "Patients are rarely hospitalized. Hot tubs have been implicated in the past but investigators will look for any possible source."

People can get the disease after breathing in the mist or vapor from the bacteria-ridden water. Those with weakened immune systems and lung disease, those who smoke, and the elderly are more susceptible to the illness.

In a statement, the health department said, "The department is investigating several locations associated with this conference, including the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills. At this time, Public Health has not determined that the source of exposure is limited to a specific location. The department is working to conclusively identify the source of exposure and the likely cause of illness for this suspected outbreak."

Each year, between 8,000 and 18,000 Americans are hospitalized with Legionnaire's disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Playboy Enterprises said in a statement, "The Playboy Mansion continues to cooperate fully with the Dept. of Public Health in their investigation."

The DOMAINfest Global Conference ran from Feb. 1 to Feb. 3. People attended events at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, Skybar at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood and the Playboy Mansion.

Maybe Not the Hot Tub

Castello rode out the illness until his fever broke five days later. Although he has weathered the worst of it, he says he continues to feel fatigued. He said he has received a letter from L.A. County that recommended he go to the hospital to undergo several diagnostic tests, including a chest X-ray and a rapid influenza swab.

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