In a press conference Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gave an update on the South Bronx Legionnaires’ disease outbreak saying that the case count and death toll have both increased.
“So, three additional cases identified, two additional deaths reported. A total now of 100 cases and 10 deaths – again, all from the same area in the South Bronx”, De Blasio noted.
He continued, “Now, we remain confident that the source of these current cases has been remediated. We remain confident that the source is among the five locations that were identified and remediated. But today, we’re going to take additional steps to protect our fellow New Yorkers.
“We’ll issuing a commissioner order from Dr. Bassett to anyone who owns or manages or otherwise controls a building with a cooling tower – and I want to emphasize at the outset, the vast majority of buildings in New York City did not have these cooling towers. They tend to be found in bigger, more modern buildings. But any building that does have one of these cooling towers will be subject to this order.
“This order instructs the owners or managers to test and disinfect their cooling tower within the next 14 days. Failure to comply with the commissioner’s order is a misdemeanor. We are doing this out of an abundance of caution. Everyone understands that the outbreak has been limited to one community in our city. But we’re doing this out of an abundance of caution, again, confident that we have already disinfected the source of this outbreak.
“As we talked about the other day, we have been in close coordination with the state, and the state Department of Health, and Center for Disease Control. And we have been making all of our plans in regular consultation with them. I want to thank the state and the state Department of Health in particular. They are offering free testing for building owners. We appreciate that effort and we appreciate the work we’re doing together on the test of the samples that were already taken. As we established the other day, those samples take a while to be tested. That is the only testing methodology that is reliable at this moment. The state has been doing those tests and we thank them for their coordination with us.”
Later in the press conference, NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said that this was the worst outbreak of Legionnaires’ in the city’s history. When asked as of why, Basset responded, “And that’s a question, of course, that we are asking ourselves. And I’m not sure that we’ll ever fully understand it, but we do know that we have identified cooling towers that completely explain the pattern of the outbreak that we’ve seen.
“So we are fully confident that these cooling towers that have been identified, tested, and remediated were the – were the source of this – of this outbreak. It’s consistent with all the information that we have. And we look forward to seeing a decline in cases.”
Bassett says they typically see between 200 and 300 cases of Legionnaires’ disease annually.