3 sickened, 1 death in Bronx Legionnaires' disease cluster

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018
3 sickened, 1 death in Bronx Legionnaires' disease cluster
Lauren Glassberg reports on Legionnaires' disease sickening 3 and leaving 1 dead in the Bronx.

CO-OP CITY, Bronx (WABC) -- A cluster of Legionnaires' disease centered on a single apartment building in the Bronx has sickened three people over the past year, leading to one death.

The New York Department of Health stresses that this is not considered an outbreak. The affected building, in Co-Op City, does not have a cooling tower, so they're looking at internal plumbing to see if the bacteria is in there.

FACTS: What is Legionnaires' disease?

The water is safe to drink, but they're advising residents of the building who are over 50 or have underlying medical conditions to avoid showering until the investigation is completed.

"The Health Department is currently investigating three cases of Legionnaires' disease in three connected buildings at Co-op City in the Bronx that occurred in the last 12 months," the health department said in a statement. "All of the patients who became ill had conditions that increase the chances of getting Legionnaires' disease. One of the patients, who was very elderly, has died. The other two individuals have been discharged from the hospital. As always, adults with flu-like symptoms, fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should seek immediate medical attention. Legionella testing should be considered by clinicians based on history, symptoms, and other findings."

Officials said the first case was last year, while the last two were in the last 60 days.

Legionnaires' disease is not contagious and is easily treatable with antibiotics. People get Legionnaires' disease by breathing in water vapor containing the bacteria.

Legionella bacteria is present throughout the environment. Like other types of pneumonia, Legionnaires' disease can be severe and even deadly, especially for people of advanced age and those with a compromised immune system.

Authorities say an average of 200 to 500 Legionnaires' cases are reported in New York city annually, and the Department of Health routinely evaluates the plumbing system of all residential buildings with two or more cases occurring among residents within one year.

At this time, this is not considered an outbreak or related to cooling towers.

The agency has notified elected officials and the community board, and has notified tenants by putting flyers in each apartment. Three buildings share the same plumbing system.

Additionally, because of the community cluster in Co-op City in 2014 associated with a cooling tower, the health department is proactively sampling active cooling towers in the vicinity.

Individuals at higher-risk include those aged 50 or older (especially if they smoke cigarettes), people with chronic lung disease, and those with compromised immune systems. People in these groups should take the following precautions:

--Don't take a shower, even a cool shower, since it could create water vapor (mist). Instead, take a bath, but fill the tub slowly. Try to minimize your time in the bathroom while the tub is filling.

--It's fine to wash dishes, but fill the sink slowly to avoid creating mist.

--It's fine to drink cold water from the tap, but start with cold water when heating water for tea, coffee or cooking.

--You do not need to wear a mask.

--It is important to continue to wash your hands.

After the outbreak in the South Bronx in 2015, the health department announced a comprehensive plan to reduce the risk of Legionnaires' disease outbreaks in the city, including implementation of the toughest cooling tower regulations in the nation, the hiring of more inspectors and training of existing city personnel to inspect towers if needed, expanding lab capacity, and speeding up community notification.


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