October 4, 2023

Co-Op City Associated with Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak in New York City

Health officials have found evidence connecting cases of Legionnaires’ disease to the Co-Op City complex in the Bronx.  “Although additional testing needs to be done, the association between the people with Legionnaires’ disease and Co-Op city is substantial,” said attorney Fred Pritzker. “Sometimes filing a lawsuit is the only way to get answers.”

Legionnaires BacteriaSince December 2014, 12 cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been diagnosed among Bronx residents, according to the New York City Department of Health. Of these, 8 were Co-Op City residents. Health officials found Legionella bacteria in water used in the cooling towers at the facility, according to a department press release.  The infected water is used to cool Co-Op City’s heating and electrical systems.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by breathing in Legionella bacteria in water mist.  If even a few cells get into the lungs, they can cause a pneumonia-like illness that can be deadly, especially to older people and anyone with lung disease or a compromised immune system. The department is continuing its investigation to determine if the cooling towers are the source of the outbreak of illnesses in the Bronx.

Prompted by this finding, River Bay Corporation, the operator of the cooling towers, took steps to decontaminate the cooling tower. The infected water is used to cool Co-Op City’s heating and electrical systems. Cooling towers are one of the structures most often associated with Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks.

“The Health Department is concerned about this sudden increase in Legionnaires’ disease in the Bronx,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “We are conducting a thorough investigation and working closely with River Bay Corporation to minimize the public risk and to prevent future cases. I urge anyone with symptoms to seek medical attention right away.”

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease can include fever, chills, cough, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion, and diarrhea. Most people with Legionnaires’ disease will develop pneumonia because even a few cells of Legionella bacteria can multiply in the lungs, leading to symptoms. Chest x-rays can confirm the patient has pneumonia. But only laboratory testing can confirm Legionnaires’ disease–that the pneumonia was caused by Legionella bacteria.

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