The Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in the South Bronx, New York City, has now claimed the lives of 12 people, according to the Health Department. All of the deceased had an underlying medical conditions. At least 113 people are sick in this outbreak. Seventy-six people have been treated and discharged from the hospital.
No new deaths have been reported since August 4, 2015, and no new cases have been diagnosed since August 3, 2015. Officials are hopeful that the source of the outbreak has been contained, since the facilities first identified as being contaminated have been disinfected.
The source of the pathogenic bacteria is cooling towers in the area. Those towers are used in air conditioning and heating systems and work by pulling heat from a building, then use evaporation to move the heat outside. The City states that twelve sites are contaminated, including the Lincoln Medical Center, the Concourse Plaza shopping center, a Department of Homeless Services intake shelter, and a post office. One report has stated that Legionnaires’ Disease has been discovered in a building in Rockland County as well.
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease include chills, fever, muscle aches, cough, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion, and headache. This illness is a form of pneumonia. If you live in the South Bronx and have been sick with these symptoms, see your doctor immediately. The disease is treatable with antibiotics.
The illness is not spread person-to-person. You get sick by inhaling mist from contaminated water sources over a period of time.
People most at risk for this illness include those who are middle-aged and older, cigarette smokers, those with compromised immune systems, and people with chronic lung disease. People who take medications that weaken the immune system are also susceptible to Legionnaires’ Disease.
The City and the State of New York have implemented new regulations that are the the first of their kind in the United States, requiring inspections and disinfection of cooling towers. A Commissioners’ Order has been put into effect: all buildings with cooling towers will be registered with the city, and those facilities must be regularly tested and cleaned.