Health Department Closes Investigation of Highbridge Legionnaires' Disease Cluster

While the cluster is over and residents are not at increased risk of Legionnaires’ disease, any New Yorker experiencing flu-like symptoms should seek health care immediately

June 17, 2022 — The Health Department today announced that the Highbridge community cluster of Legionnaires’ disease is over. No new cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been identified in residents of the area with symptom onset in the last four weeks. There were 30 cases of Legionnaires’ disease associated with this cluster. Twenty-eight people were hospitalized, 24 have been discharged, and two New Yorkers died.

After extensive epidemiologic investigation, sampling of area cooling towers, and molecular analysis of Legionella bacteria from human and cooling tower specimens, the Health Department’s Public Health Laboratory and epidemiologists have matched the Legionella strain found in the cooling tower located at 1325 Jerome Ave, 10452 with the strain found in two patients from the Highbridge cluster. The Health Department sampled that cooling tower on the day the investigation began on May 20. The building owner was ordered to immediately disinfect on May 23 and perform additional remediation on June 3. The building has complied and is working with the Health Department on their long-term management program.

"Thank you to the dozens of elected officials and community leaders who worked with the Department to inform residents in the area about proper precautions," said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. "The Department’s investigation was able to identify one cooling tower that had a genetic match with patient specimens, and the cooling tower was ordered to take additional cleaning and disinfection measures."

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that is caused by the bacteria Legionella, which grows in warm water. Symptoms resemble other types of pneumonia and can include fever, chills, muscle aches, and cough. Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease can be traced to contamination of artificial water systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as cooling towers.

People get sick by breathing in water vapor containing Legionella bacteria — it is not transmitted from person to person. Legionnaires’ disease is not caused by drinking from water that has Legionella bacteria. Individuals at higher risk include those ages 50 and above, cigarette smokers, and people with chronic lung disease or compromised immune systems.



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