A cooling tower at the Opera House Hotel in the South Bronx was the source of a Legionnaires Disease outbreak that sickened 128 people, killing 12 of them, New York City health officials have determined. The tower was disinfected August 1, and the outbreak is now over, according to the health department.
Legionnaires’ Disease causes pneumonia-like symptoms such as fever, cough, fatigue, confusion, aches and lung inflammation. Symptoms usually appear two to 14 days after exposure to contaminated water mist from showers, faucets, whirlpools, swimming pools, fountains or cooling towers in air conditioning systems. It cannot be transmitted from person to person.
In a statement, the hotel called the city’s findings disappointing, as their system is only 2 years old, “has the most up-to-date technology available and our maintenance plan has been consistent with the regulations that both the city and the state are putting in place.”
The outbreak prompted the city to enact a new law regulating cooling towers. Cooling towers must be inspected regularly and treated immediately if legionella bacteria is discovered.