After getting a deadly Legionnaires' outbreak in the Bronx under control in August, the Health Department is reporting a new cluster of cases in the same borough. The current outbreak, which officials say has no connection to the previous one, is currently confined to the Morris Park area. The Health Department says seven people have been sickened since last week, but no new fatalities have been reported. The cause is currently unknown.
Last month's outbreak in the South Bronx left 12 people dead and sickened an estimated 120. It was ultimately traced to Legionella bacteria in a cooling tower of the Opera House Hotel. It was the largest Legionnaires' outbreak in NYC history.
The current cases have afflicted people ranging in age from 45 to 75. The first was reported on September 21st, with six other cases coming to the attention of Health Department officials over the following week. Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said New Yorkers with respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough, chills and difficulty breathing, should "promptly" seek medical attention.
Since Saturday, environmental scientists have visited all cooling towers in the area to take samples in an attempt to pinpoint the source of the outbreak.
Here are some facts about the disease from the NYC Health Department:
Legionnaires' disease is caused by the bacteria Legionella, and New York City sees 200-300 cases each year. 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. Legionnaires' disease cannot be spread from person to person. Groups at high risk for Legionnaire’s disease include people who are middle-aged or older - especially cigarette smokers - people with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems and people who take medicines that weaken their immune systems (immunosuppressive drugs). Those with symptoms should call their doctor and ask about testing for Legionnaire’s disease. New York City’s drinking water supply and drinking water tanks are unaffected.
"We are confident that the Legionnaires’ outbreak is now ending," Mayor de Blasio said on August 11th. A Riker's inmate was subsequently diagnosed, and traces of the Legionella bacteria were discovered in the cooling tower at an Upper East Side girls' school.