The New York City (NYC) Health Department is investigating a cluster of seven cases of Legionnaires’ disease among persons who reside in the Lenox Hill area of Manhattan in the last 11 days. All persons were hospitalized, and there has been one death in a person in their 90s who had significant underlying medical conditions.
There are no common sources of exposure among these patients other than living in the same area of the city. The Department is currently testing all cooling towers in the affected area for Legionella pneumophila to determine the source of exposure.
“The Health Department has identified an increase and cluster of Legionnaires’ disease cases in the Lenox Hill area,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “We have begun an investigation to determine the source of the cluster, focusing on cooling towers in the neighborhood. I urge individuals in this area with respiratory symptoms to seek medical attention right away.”
“Residents should be looking out for signs of Legionnaires: anybody with fever, cough, chills and muscle aches, should quickly see medical attention,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “We are working with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to identify the source immediately. My thoughts and prayers are with the family of the individual who passed away.”
Health officials are requesting that providers test for Legionella when evaluating adults with symptoms of pneumonia, especially if they report residing, working or visiting the Lenox Hill area of Manhattan since May 22nd.
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by the bacteria Legionella. Symptoms include fever, cough, chills, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear two to 10 days after significant exposure to Legionella bacteria. 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.
Legionnaires’ disease cannot be spread from person to person. Groups at highest risk for Legionnaire’s disease include people who are middle-aged or older, especially cigarette smokers, people with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems and people who take medicines that weaken their immune systems (immunosuppressive drugs). Those with symptoms should call their doctor and ask about testing for Legionnaire’s disease.