Legionnaires cases up to 14 in Washington Heights cluster

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Friday, July 13, 2018
3 more cases revealed at Legionnaires' outbreak meeting
Health department officials announced there were three more cases and a total of nine people are hospitalized.

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- New York City health department officials on Friday announced that the number of cases in a Legionnaires' disease cluster in Washington Heights is up to 14.

A community meeting was held Thursday after officials announced Wednesday that eight people had been diagnosed with Legionnaires in the last seven days. They announced three more cases Thursday and the rest Friday.

Derrick Waller has an update on the cluster in Upper Manhattan

Ages of the individuals range from under 40 to over 80, but most were ages 50 and above. No deaths were associated with this cluster.

Twenty cooling towers have been checked throughout Washington Heights and Hamilton Heights and test results are pending.

The Health Commissioner was a bit surprised when a man at the meeting spoke out and said not only did he have Legionnaires' disease, but a health department worker failed to follow up on his case.

The health department released the following statement in response:

"Every person who is diagnosed with Legionnaires' is fully interviewed and engaged by one of our disease detectives. There are 250-500 sporadic cases of Legionnaires'. Mr McGougan engaged Health Department doctors at the community meeting and we are following up with him."

RELATED: FACTS: What is Legionnaires' disease?

Legionnaires' disease is a form of bacterial pneumonia. The elderly are at the highest risk. The disease is potentially fatal but can be effectively treated with an early diagnosis.

People contract Legionnaires' disease by breathing in water vapor that contains bacteria. Health officials are testing water from all cooling tower systems in the area of the cluster.

Adults with flu-like symptoms, cough, fever or difficulty breathing should contact a physician immediately.

"While most people exposed to Legionella don't get sick, individuals ages 50 and above, especially those who smoke and have chronic lung conditions, are at a higher risk," Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. "This disease is very treatable with antibiotics. I encourage anyone with symptoms of Legionnaires' disease to seek care early."

Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia that is caused by the bacteria Legionella, which grows in warm water. Symptoms resemble other types of pneumonia and can include fever, chills, muscle aches, and cough. Most cases of Legionnaires' disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as cooling towers, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks, and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.


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