NEW YORK – CBSNews reports that New York City health officials are monitoring a new cluster of Legionnaires’ disease cases in the Bronx.
Officials announced Monday that seven cases have been diagnosed in the borough’s Morris Park neighborhood. All seven patients are hospitalized, but no fatalities have been reported.
They say the cases are not connected to a Legionnaires’ outbreak in the Bronx last month that claimed 12 lives. That outbreak, the largest in the city’s history, was traced to Legionella bacteria in the cooling tower of the Opera House Hotel.
Officials said the first case of the new cluster was reported on Sept. 21.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a type of bacterium called Legionella . The bacterium is named after a 1976 outbreak, during which some people who went to a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion suffered from a new type of pneumonia (lung infection) that became known as Legionnaires’ disease. A milder infection, also caused by Legionella, is called Pontiac fever. The term “legionellosis” may be used to refer to either Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever.
About 6,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported in the United States in 2015. However, because Legionnaires’ disease is likely underdiagnosed, this number may underestimate the true incidence. The CDC also reports that the rate of reported legionellosis cases tends to be higher in the northeast and midwest than in the south and west. Researchers are not certain why that is, but it is likely related to a combination of factors.
Legionnaires’ disease spreads through inhaling the mist of water contaminated with Legionella bacteria. It can usually be traced to warm water sources such as cooling towers, hot water tanks, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers and condensers in large air conditioning systems.
Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease typically appear between two days and two weeks after exposure to the bacteria. Patients may develop pneumonia and experience symptoms that include headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea. The illness can be treated with antibiotics.
The disease cannot be spread from person to person.
The city created new cooling tower cleaning regulations after the previous outbreak. The law requires building owners to register, inspect and regularly clean cooling towers, and obtain an annual certification. Violators would face fines up to $25,000.