New York City health officials are reporting an eighth fatality due to the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that has sickened 97 and hospitalized 92 in the South Bronx.
All deceased individuals were older adults and had additional underlying medical problems and they are all connected to the current cluster.
Commissioner of the NYC Health Department, Dr. Mary Bassett sent out several tweets during the past couple days assuring the public that the water supply was safe to drink and that they are confident that all the sources of Legionella have been identified.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio also reiterated in a press conference Tuesday that “there is no risk to our drinking water. There is no risk to our water supply from Legionnaires’ disease.”
He continued, “Now, we’ve been aggressively investigating and testing any and all possible sources of this outbreak. 17 buildings in the cluster area were identified as having cooling towers. And I want to emphasize, we’re talking about cooling towers, which is not the same as water towers – the classic water towers that we see on many New York City buildings. Cooling towers are actually pretty advanced cooling systems, more associated with bigger buildings and more modern buildings. So, typically you won’t see this on a smaller residential building. That’s why of the five buildings, so far, where we found contamination and where we undertook and completed decontamination – all of them were non-residential buildings, and bigger buildings.
“So again, five buildings have tested positive for Legionella, and decontamination has been completed at all five sites. So the only five sites that we have evidence of contamination for – one of the sites, here on the roof of Lincoln Hospital – one of the cooling towers here, and again, has been decontaminated.”
The Mayor also said, “The administration will unveil legislation designed to halt future outbreaks. We’ll be working in close partnership with the City Council, and we’ll set new inspection standards for buildings with cooling and condensing units. Those, again, are the usual sources of Legionella. If Legionella is detected in any of these units, immediate action will be required by the building ownership – and there will be clear penalties for failure to comply. And again, in any instance where we find such a site, and the building owners do not act, the city will.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says an estimated 8,000 to 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease each year in the U.S.