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New York City health officials announced Wednesday that they are investigating three Legionnaires’ disease cases in three connected buildings at Co-op City in the Bronx. One person has died and to others in connecting buildings have been treated and released from the hospital.

Legionella bacteria Image/CDC
Legionella bacteria

Health officials urged residents of these buildings to seek treatment if they experience symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease. In addition, residents who are over 50 or have underlying medical conditions should avoid showering until the investigation is completed.

“We are in the process of undertaking an examining the water system, a process we take very seriously”, a top health officials noted.

Legionnaires’ disease is the cause of pneumonia where a non productive cough is typical. In addition, it is typified by headache, fever, body aches and occasionally abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Legionella bacteria are widely distributed, and normally grow best in warm water environments. They have been found in creeks and ponds, water taps (primarily hot water taps), hot water tanks, cooling towers and evaporative condensers, whirlpool spas, and decorative fountains.

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Most people contract the disease by inhaling mist or vapor from a water source contaminated with the bacteria.

People of any age may get Legionnaires’ disease, but the disease most often affects persons older than 50.  The disease is rare in people younger than 20 years of age.  People at high-risk of acquiring the disease include current and former smokers, persons with chronic lung disease like emphysema or COPD, or those with compromised immunity (like patients who receive corticosteroids or have had an organ transplant).  People with underlying illnesses, such as cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, or AIDS are also at higher risk.

The Bronx saw a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in 2015 that sickened more than 120 people, killing a dozen.