An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in New York City has killed seven people, up from two fatalities reported last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said Monday night.
The Mayor’s Office said that all of the victims were older adults with pre-existing medical conditions and that the infections were clustered in the South Bronx. City officials pinpointed the outbreak’s source to a series of cooling towers. Legionnaires’ disease, caused by Legionella bacteria, can thrive in plumbing and other damp environments, such as heating and cooling systems.
The latest reports from New York City health officials say the outbreak has sickened 81 people and has led to 64 patients being hospitalized. Twenty-eight of the hospitalized patients have been treated and released.
New York City Health Department representatives and other city officials held a town hall meeting at the Bronx Museum of the Arts to address the concerns of area residents and answer questions about the “noncontagious and highly treatable disease.”
“Legionnaires’ Disease has been a persistent public health threat for years, and has intensified in both New York City and across the nation over the past decade,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. He said the city’s response to the outbreak included “comprehensive cleaning and remediation of infected sites, treatment of those who have contracted the disease, and a vigorous public information campaign to ensure people know the facts.”
The outbreak is the second to hit the Bronx this year. The first outbreak sickened a dozen people in January, most of them in the Co-Op City development. Health officials also traced that outbreak to the cooling towers of the housing complex
The city tested 17 cooling towers and identified five as positive for the Legionnaires’ bacteria. The infected towers have been cleaned and decontaminated, but all affected locations were ordered to submit long-term plans for protecting against future outbreaks of the disease by Friday.
“A more systemic solution is required to prevent the cycle of these outbreaks from continuing,” Mayor de Blasio said, adding that city officials were working on new legislation that would “halt future outbreaks of Legionnaires’ and place new emphasis on long-term prevention.”