The New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is investigating a cluster of Legionnaires’ Disease cases in the Morris Park section of the Bronx. This outbreak is not related to the summer outbreak in the South Bronx linked to the Opera House Hotel.
Patients live or work in Morris Park. They range in age from 45 to 75 and are all currently in the hospital. No deaths have been reported to date.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement, “we are investigating a cluster of seven cases of Legionnaires’ Disease in Morris Park. I urge all New Yorkers to seek care immediately if they have flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, headache, or difficulty breathing. The Department is taking immediate steps to determine the source and protect the people who live and work in Morris Park.”
The seven cases were reported to the government between September 21 and September 27, 2015. When the first case was reported, public health officials started interviewing patients and reviewing medical records. Environmental scientists have visited all of the cooling towers in the area and took samples that are now being tested in laboratories.
A Health Alert has been issued to all health care providers in the area, asking them to look for symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease, to conduct appropriate tests, and provide samples to the Health Department for lab testing. Emergency Department visits are being monitored for anyone presenting with pneumonia-like symptoms. Tests for Legionnaires’ Disease are not normally run unless several people living or working in one area come to the doctor with pneumonia-like symptoms.
Officials are also identifying facilities such as nursing homes and senior centers were vulnerable populations live. Staff is going to go to these locations, distributing Frequently Asked Questions lists, answering questions, and reminding people to see their doctor immediately if they have symptoms of this illness.
Legionnaires’ Disease symptoms include a cough that may produce sputum or blood, fever and chills, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion, and diarrhea. The symptoms usually begin two to ten days after exposure to the bacteria. The illness does not spread person-to-person. People get this illness by breathing vapor or mist from contaminated water sources.
People who are most susceptible to this illness includes those age 50 and older, current or former cigarette smokers, those with chronic lung diseases, and people with weakened immune systems or other chronic illnesses. The fatality rate for this illness can be as high as 30%. Earlier diagnosis and treatment leads to more favorable outcomes.
Most cases of Legionnaires’ Disease are traced to plumbing systems, especially in large buildings and older structures. The Legionella bacteria have been found in cooling towers, evaporative condensers of large air conditioning systems, hot tubs, whirlpool spas, humidifiers, and fountains.
If you live in the Morris Park area of the Bronx and have been experiencing symptoms similar to pneumonia, with a cough and fever, please see your doctor as soon as possible. This disease can be treated with antibiotics.