One person has died in the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Morris Park, Bronx, New York City. Thirteen people have been diagnosed with this illness. Eleven people are hospitalized, and one has been discharged from the hospital.
This outbreak was first reported on September 21, 2015. The New York Health Department started investigating, and since Saturday, September 26, 2015, all of the cooling towers in the area had been visited by environmental scientists.
All cases have illness onset dates before 9/21/15, and all of the patients have underlying health conditions. People most susceptible to a Legionnaires’ Disease infection include anyone over the age of 50, current and former smokers, and anyone who has a chronic lung disease or compromised immune system.
So far, 15 cooling towers in the area have tested positive for the bacteria: at 2725 East Tremont – Chase Bank; 1740 Eastchester Road – Calvary Hospital; 2964 East Tremont – Lehman High School; 1500 Waters Place – Bronx State Psychiatric; 1199 Sackett Ave – Einstein College; 1845 Eastchester Road – Einstein College; 1301 Morriss Park Ave – Einstein College; 1250 Morris Park Ave – Einstein College; 1865 Eastchester Road – Einstein College; and 1925-1935 Eastchester Road – Einstein College. All of these locations have been ordered cleaned and disinfected. You can see a chart of the disease cluster by diagnosis date at the Health Department website.
But, officials said this week that the fifteen water cooling towers in question were disinfected less than two months ago, after the deadly Legionnaires’ outbreak in the South Bronx that killed 12 people in July and August. Every cooling tower in every building in the city was supposed to be cleaned within two weeks of that outbreak.
Some disinfection specialists told the New York Times that the bacteria grows very well in warmer weather, and also said that cleanings are only a “short-term fix.” Legionella bacteria are ubiquitous in the environment. Officials claims that since they now have a registry of cooling towers they will be able to keep track of them and require more cleaning, which is apparently expensive.
One of the issues with this bacteria is that many buildings in New York City are very old. Well maintained cooling towers are less likely to harbor the bacteria. And a risk management program must be put into place after the towers are disinfected.
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease start with a fever and chills, then progress to a cough that may be bloody or produce sputum. If you live in the Morris Park or South Bronx area of New York City and have experienced these symptoms, please see your doctor. This illness can be treated with antibiotics, but the earlier it is caught the better the prognosis.
This illness is not spread person-to-person. It is contracted after inhaling vapor or mist from cooling towers, fountains, or showers.
The city has identified more than 40 potential locations of vulnerable populations in Morris Park, including senior centers. Outreach teams have started to visit those locations, interviewing people and looking for signs of the illness.