Legionnaires’ Death Toll Rises Amid Political Sniping

As the death toll from Legionnaires’ disease has risen to include a twelfth victim, the political sniping between Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio sank to a new low. On Monday, the two Democrats appeared to have competing news briefings on the Legionnaires’ outbreak in the Bronx. Although no new cases have been reported since Aug. 3, the two leaders disagreed on the number of new sites that have tested positive for the legionella bacteria. The city found two more sites within the outbreak zone (Bronx Community Boards 1, 2, 3 and 4), while the state found three new sites outside the affected area.

 

The state and city health departments separately issued “joint” news releases on their respective letterhead. (I kid you not.) The numbers of cases of Legionnaires’ disease rose to 113; 76 persons have been released from area hospitals and 25 remain hospitalized; and the twelve persons who died, all had underlying medical conditions.

 

Earlier in the day, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and City Council Members announced a proposal for legislation to regulate cooling towers and reduce the risk of future Legionnaires’ outbreaks.

 

“We are confident the Legionnaires’ outbreak in the South Bronx has been contained, and are working with our partners in the City Council to protect the entire city in the long-term through stringent new regulations for building owners,” said Mayor de Blasio.

 

How Cooling Towers Operate

How Cooling Towers Operate

 

The legislation is the first in the nation to provide for detailed requirements and oversight, including mandatory registration, testing and inspections of cooling towers, and sanctions for failure to comply with new standards. Its provisions are designed to ensure adherence to industry standards for maintenance, cleaning and testing for microbes, and reporting of samples that present a serious health threat to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

 

In an effort to convey cooperation and unity, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Bassett and New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Zucker issued an update on the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Bronx. As of Monday, a total of 18 sites have been identified inside and outside of the outbreak area. The release confirmed that all testing is done by the Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany which is run by the state of New York.

 

According to Examiner.com, Milwaukee, city and county, experienced an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease in 2013 similar to the one here in the Bronx. Between June 1 and Sept. 30, 2013, fifty-eight confirmed cases were reported. Wisconsin public health authorities tested a large number of potential sites for contamination and several were positive for legionella. Specimens obtained from patients tested positive for six strains of legionella, but none of these strains were found to be related to the strains in the environmental samples. The sources of infected for the 58 patients were never definitively determined.

 

While the city Health Department is certain that the source of the initial Legionnaires’ outbreak is the Opera House Hotel, definitive test results are still pending.

Contaminated Cooling Towers_Legionnaires Cases-NYC Mayors Office 08102015

Below is a list of the sites within the zone that have been identified as of Monday.

· Concourse Plaza, 198 E. 161st. St.
· Opera House Hotel, 436 E. 149 St.
· Lincoln Hospital, 234 E. 149th St.
· Streamline Plastics, 2950 Park Ave.
· Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home, 1160 Teller Ave.
· Post Office, 558 Grand Concourse
· Verizon, 117 E. 167th St.
· Bronx Housing Courts, 1118 Grand Concourse
· NYC Department of Education 455 Southern Boulevard. Also called Samuel Gompers High School.
· DHS PATH Intake Center, 151 East 151st Street.
· Bronx Hall of Justice, 245 E 161ST Street

The following sites have been identified as testing positive but are outside the outbreak zone and not related to the outbreak:
· Verizon, 1106 Hoe Ave.
· Police Dept., 1086 Simpson St.
· 1201 Lafayette Ave.
· 230 East 123rd St.