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In a follow-up on the cluster of Legionnaires’ disease cases in the Highbridge area of the Bronx, the New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reports 19 cases and 1 death as of May 25.

Legionella pneumophila bacteria/CDC

Legionnaires’ disease follows a seasonal pattern in NYC, with an increased number of cases reported from June to October each year.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by Legionella bacteria. It is characterized by pneumonia occurring 2-14 days after exposure to an often-unidentified environmental source. Legionella is a ubiquitous aquatic organism that grows in warm environments (77°–108°F). Exposure occurs through inhalation of contaminated aerosols from devices such as cooling towers, whirlpool spas, showers, and faucets, and through aspiration of contaminated water.

Groups at higher risk include persons > 50 years old, cigarette smokers, and persons with chronic lung disease, or persons with immunocompromising conditions. The case-fatality rate is estimated to be 10% for community acquired Legionnaires’ disease. Recommended treatment options include macrolide or quinolone antibiotics.

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The Health Department is actively investigating these cases and is sampling and testing water from all cooling tower systems in the area of the cluster. New Yorkers with flu-like symptoms, cough, fever or difficulty breathing should contact a physician immediately.