At least 10 sickened in Legionnaires' outbreak on Long Island

WANTAGH, Long Island (WABC) -- The Nassau County Department of Health is investigating a Legionnaires' disease outbreak on Long Island that has sickened at least 10 people.

All the cases were reported within the past two weeks in a one-mile radius of Wantagh Avenue and Old Jerusalem Road on the Levittown-Wantagh border.

As of Friday afternoon, officials have still not identified the source.

"Thanks to our healthcare partners at NYU Langone and St. Joseph's hospitals, we were able to quickly identify the outbreak and begin a thorough health investigation," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. "Our Department of Health disease investigators are on the ground and working as quickly as possible to identify the source. My main priority is keeping our residents safe and we will make the community aware of the cause as soon as the investigation is complete."

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

The Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment and are transmitted by aerosolized water.

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People can get Legionnaires' disease when breathing in a mist or vapor containing the bacteria, most commonly from cooling towers, fountains, spray parks, hot tubs, whirlpool spas, showers, and faucets.

"Plotted it on a map, and all 10 cases live very close together, geographically, within a few blocks of each other," Nassau County Health Commissioner Dr. Larry Eisenstein said. "That is a cluster."

There are few cooling towers in the area, leading authorities in different direction.

"Usually it's ventilation system, most likely in a commercial establishment," Nassau County Legislator said.

It is not spread from person to person.

Those who are 50 years of age or older are at a higher risk of becoming ill with Legionnaires' disease, as well as current or former smokers, those with chronic lung disease, those with a weakened immune system, and people who take immunosuppressant medications.

As Legionnaires' disease is a form of pneumonia, it can be difficult to distinguish from the more commonly acquired pneumonias.

Signs of Legionnaires' disease may include cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches, and headaches.

These symptoms usually begin two to 10 days after being exposed to the bacteria.

The disease requires treatment with antibiotics and most cases are treated successfully.

People at higher risk of becoming ill with Legionnaires' disease are those 50 years of age or older, current of former smokers, those with chronic lung disease, those with a weakened immune system, and people who take immunosuppressant medications.

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New York State is experiencing a state-wide increase in legionellosis cases.

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

CLICK HERE for more Additional information from the Nassau County Department of Health.

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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