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De Blasio Administration Provides Update on City's Steps to Protect New Yorkers From Legionnaires' Disease

July 30, 2015

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City identified two sources of Legionella, and affected units have begun the process of remediation

City continues aggressive testing and monitoring

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio and Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett announced today that City health officials have identified and are overseeing the cleaning of two sources of Legionnaires’ disease in the South Bronx. The two sources already identified are cooling towers at Lincoln Hospital and Concourse Plaza. The Department is working with the owners of both cooling towers and they have begun the process of remediation to reduce the potential for exposure. The City is also testing other possible sources and will order decontamination of any additional sources. Today the Health Department is testing 10 additional sites surrounding the affected area. The Health Department is also interviewing patients and reviewing records to determine whether cases share a common exposure.

Initial steps for decontamination include treating the cooling tower where Legionella bacteria were found with a disinfectant, and continuously flushing the system with fresh water. There have been 46 reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease reported in the South Bronx since July 10, 2015. Nine of the hospitalized patients have been discharged. Two patients have died.

Legionnaires’ disease is NOT contagious. It cannot be spread from person to person, and it is treatable with antibiotics. As with any infection, early diagnosis is desirable. The vast majority of patients recover from the infection.

“We will continue to be vigilant on all fronts, ensuring the health and safety of New Yorkers by both addressing Legionnaires’ at its source, and ensuring affected New Yorkers who need it are getting proper treatment,” said Mayor de Blasio.

“As we continue to investigate the potential sources of this cluster, we remind New Yorkers that this is a very treatable disease and we urge anyone who might be experiencing symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease to seek medical attention immediately,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Additionally, the New York City water supply does not pose a risk, so people should continue to feel confident in drinking tap water to stay cool during this period of hot weather.”

About Legionnaires’ disease:

  • Legionnaires’ disease (or Legionellosis) is a common type of pneumonia caused by a bacterium called Legionella.
  • Most of the cases have been reported from the South Bronx neighborhoods of High Bridge-Morrisania and Hunts Point-Mott Haven.
  • There were 301 cases reported in 2013 and 225 in 2014. Generally, 5 to 10 percent of cases are fatal.

What New Yorkers should know:

  • Groups at high risk for Legionnaires’ disease include people who are middle-aged or older, especially cigarette smokers, as well as people with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems, and people who take medicines that weaken their immune systems (immunosuppressive drugs).
  • Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.
  • People can get sick from inhaling contaminated mists from cooling towers, showers, faucets, and whirlpool spas. The disease occurs most commonly in the summer and fall.
  • Anyone concerned about the disease should seek care from a physician or go to the nearest emergency room.

Download fact sheet with more details.

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