By NewsDesk  @bactiman63

By Jory Lange

13 Elmira residents are recovering from Legionnaires’ disease.  The Chemung County Department of Health and the New York State Department of Health are investigating the Elmira Legionnaires Outbreak.  Legionnaires disease is a serious and often deadly lung disease.  Overall, 10% of Americans who develop Legionnaires disease die.

This image depicts two Legionella pneumophila bacterial colonies (arrowheads), amongst other bacterial colonies grown on BCYE (Buffered Charcoal Yeast Extract) agar/CDC

A cooling tower at Elmira Heat Treating may be the source of this Legionnaires outbreak.  Cooling towers are a common source of Legionnaires disease outbreaks. Elmira Heat Treating has three cooling towers.  One cooling tower tested positive for Legionnaires disease. According to the New York State Department of Health, Elmira Heat Treating’s cooling tower tested positive for the same rare strain of Legionnaires disease that has infected the 13 Elmira residents.

After testing positive for the outbreak strain of Legionnaires disease, the cooling tower at Elmira Heat Treating has been taken offline and shut down for deep cleaning and decontamination.  According to WENY News, “After the tower is drained, scrubbed, and flushed, the tower will then reportedly be re-filled and retested according to regulations.”  

What is Legionnaires Disease?

Legionnaires disease is a serious, often fatal, lung disease.  It is caused by a type of bacteria called legionella. Legionella bacteria grown in warm water.  The water in cooling towers, large plumbing systems, hot tubs, and decorative fountains has to be properly maintained to prevent or reduce the growth of legionella bacteria.  When legionella bacteria are found in these types of water systems, they are particularly dangerous, because these water systems have the potential to aerosolize the legionella bacteria—emitting the legionella bacteria into the air where they can be breathed.

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