NEW YORK, NY – Seven people have died and 86 others have become ill as the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene investigates a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the South Bronx. All of the cases have been reported since July 10; the department cautions New Yorkers with respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, chills, and muscle aches, promptly to seek medical attention.
The department is testing water from cooling towers and other potential sources in the area to find the source of the outbreak.
According to Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, swift investigations are being conducted to determine the source of the outbreak and prevent future cases. Anyone with symptoms is urged to seek medical attention right away.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio has said he would propose legislation this week to prevent future outbreaks, including regular cooling tower inspections, new recommendations for an immediate outbreak response and sanctions for failing to comply with new standards.
The disease is caused by Legionella bacteria; it is not spread person to person. Additional symptoms include headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion, and diarrhea; symptoms usually appear two to 10 days after significant exposure to the bacteria, according to information on the department’s website.
Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks, cooling towers, and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.
Groups at high risk for Legionnaire’s disease include older people – especially cigarette smokers – as well as people with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems and people who take immunosuppressive drugs.
City health officials have said New York City’s drinking water supply hasn’t been affected and is safe to drink.