Six New Cases of Legionnaires’ Disease, 71 Sickened

As of Sunday, there were 71 cases of Legionnaires’ disease ( a form of pneumonia) reported in the Bronx. Tragically, four persons have died and all of the deceased individuals were older adults and had additional underlying medical problems. So far, fifty-five people suffering from Legionnaires’ disease were hospitalized and twenty-five were treated and subsequently discharged. New Yorkers with respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough, chills and muscle aches, are advised to promptly seek medical attention.

In April 2014, after a similar outbreak in Co-op City, Councilman Andy King and the Health Department held a town hall to disseminate accurate information about the legionellosis infection which causes the pneumonia known as Legionnaires’ disease. Once the Co-op City cooling systems were decontaminated and remediated, the outbreak subsided.

Today, Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and area colleagues will hold a town hall for residents of the affected South Bronx neighborhoods. Gibson expects the meeting to be an opportunity to address community concerns about the ongoing Legionnaire’s disease outbreak. “It is important everyone understand that Legionnaire’s disease is not contagious, that they educate themselves about the symptoms…and [have] confidence in the safety of our City’s water,” said Gibson in a prepared statement.

We know that twenty-two buildings were visited in the cluster area and 17 were identified to have cooling towers. All 17 have been tested, five buildings tested positive, and remediation has been completed at all five locations:

  • Lincoln Hospital
  • Concourse Plaza
  • Opera House Hotel
  • Verizon/Fios
  • Streamline Plastic Company

it is important to note that none of the fifty-seven reported cases were guests at the Opera House Hotel on East 149th Street. In a show of support, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. dropped by the Opera House Hotel on Saturday.

By this Friday, all site managers at the five locations are required to submit long term plans detailing how they will maintain the cooling towers to protect against any future growth of legionella.

In collaboration with the Office of Emergency Management, the Health Department is deploying so-called “disease detectives who are conducting epidemiological investigations and interviews with all individuals sickened with Legionnaires’ to determine identification of the infection source, as well as sharing information with more than 4,000 healthcare and service providers.

The New York Times reported on Monday that as the number of Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks have grown in the city, “many buildings have continued to operate under a largely unenforced and often vague patchwork of guidelines, or no rules at all.”

Council Member Gibson admitted that the outbreak opened her eyes to the danger of improperly maintained cooling towers. “Moving forward, I will be working with Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and my Council colleagues to develop policies that require strict upkeep and monitoring of cooling towers and similar structures so as to help prevent future outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease in our City,” said Gibson.