New York City health officials, in an update yesterday, is reporting 71 cases of Legionella infection, including four related deaths, have been reported among people who live in, work in, or visited the High Bridge, Morrisania, Hunts Point, and Mott Haven areas of the South Bronx as of July 8.
The Health Department is actively investigating and is testing water from cooling towers and other potential sources in the area to determine the source of the outbreak.
Five cooling towers in the outbreak zone have been identified as possible sources for these infections and have been remediated.
Health officials warn that due to the incubation period for this infection can be as long as 10 days, persons may have been infected before remediation and could develop illness within the next week.
“We are concerned about this unusual increase in Legionnaires’ disease cases in the South Bronx,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “We are conducting a swift investigation to determine the source of the outbreak and prevent future cases. I urge anyone with symptoms to seek medical attention right away.”
The health department says some common comorbid health conditions among cases include chronic obstructive lung disease, other lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic use of alcohol, cigarettes, and/or illicit substances. In addition, at least 7 (10%) cases are HIV-infected.
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by the bacteria Legionella. Additional symptoms include: 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 whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks, cooling towers, and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.