New York City Council passes new law to prevent future outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease

Josh Einiger Image
Thursday, August 13, 2015
City council passes new law to prevent future outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease
Dave Evans is in the South Bronx with the details

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City lawmakers on Thursday approved a new law meant to stop the spread of Legionnaires' disease and prevent future outbreaks.

Mayor Bill de Blasio wouldn't say the outbreak is completely over, but there was the feeling of a grand finale as he thanked doctors, nurses and everyone who else who battled the spread of the potentially deadly illness over the last few weeks.

"Everyone here at Lincoln (Hospital), they were in the core of this outbreak," he said. "This was the go-to medical facility...and the folks here served with tremendous distinction."

The numbers show 121 cases of the disease in the South Bronx, 12 deaths and 20 cooling towers both in and around the ara had the bacteria. But they were cleaned and disinfected, and officials say they're now safe.

"We have contained the outbreak of Legionnaires' in the South Bronx and this took the work of many," health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said. "Many, many, many."

At City Hall, the City Council enacted a new law ordering that all cooling towers must be registered and inspected quarterly, and owners who violate the rule will face a fine, anywhere from $2,000 for a first violation to $25,000 and up to a year in prison if owners willfully ignore and violate a health department order.

"We're in the midst of an emergency in New York City," council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said. "And this legislation is the course of action to deal with a crisis of this magnitude."

Surprisingly, New York City has 100 to 200 cases of Legionnaires' every year, but never in a cluster like this. There will be more cases, but city officials believe this outbreak is pretty much behind us.

"We remain confident this outbreak is contained," de Blasio said.

Dr. Bassett said she and other health officials believe the cooling towers were the source of the outbreak, which is the largest in the city's history. They believe the people who contracted the disease breathed mist that was expelled from the infected towers.

RELATED: More sites where Legionnaires' has been found

Thursday marked the 10th straight day of no new cases being reported.