Legionnaire’s Outbreak Investigated in NYC

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The New York City Department of Health is investigating an outbreak of the deadly Legionnaire’s disease in the south Bronx neighborhood. Thirty-one cases of the disease have been reported since early July and two deaths are suspected to be related to the disease.

Legionnaire’s disease is caused by exposure to the Legionella bacteria, which usually happens when people inhale contaminated water vapor. As a result, city officials are investigating cooling towers and testing other water sources in the southern region of the Bronx. Aside from cooling towers, the most common sources of Legionnaire’s infections comes from plumbing systems like those found in whirlpool spas, humidifiers and condensers, hot tubs, or hot water tanks. Person-to-person transmission of Legionnaire’s disease is not possible.

“Thank God this is a disease that can be treated,” New York mayor Bill de Blasio said in a CBS interview, as he emphasized the importance of early detection. Legionnaire’s disease is treatable with antibiotics and can be cured so long as people with respiratory symptoms seek medical attention quickly.

Legionnaire’s disease is a form of pneumonia and symptoms start to appear approximately two to 10 days following the initial infection. Patients begin by showing headaches, muscle pain, chills, and fevers. By around the third day of infection, further symptoms develop, such as a cough that can bring up mucus and sometimes blood, shortness of breath, chest pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and confusion.

Smokers, those with weakened immune systems, anyone age 50 or older, and those with lung conditions such as emphysema or asthma are most at risk of developing Legionnaire’s disease.

The current Legionnaire’s outbreak follows one the Bronx felt earlier in December and January. During the last outbreak, twelve people were diagnosed. An investigation traced the Legionella bacteria to a cooling tower at a housing complex, which was promptly decontaminated.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Eversley, M., “NYC Investigates Legionnaire’s Outbreak,” USA Today web site, July 29, 2015; http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/07/29/legionairres-outbreak-nyc/30860109/.
“Health Department: Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak In South Bronx Sickens 31,” CBS New York web site, July 29, 2015. http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2015/07/29/legionnaires-disease-south-bronx/.
“Legionnaires’ Disease,” Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/legionnaires-disease/basics/symptoms/con-20028867, last accessed July 30, 2015.