The death toll from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in New York City is now at eight, according to an update from city health officials Wednesday.
Since the outbreak began, 92 people have been hospitalized with the disease — a severe form of bacterial pneumonia — 48 of whom have been treated and released.
Health officials traced the source of the outbreak to the South Bronx after five of 17 cooling towers inspected for legionella bacteria tested positive. The five towers were at Streamline Plastic Co., Lincoln Hospital, the Concourse Plaza shopping center near Yankee Stadium, the Opera House Hotel and a Verizon office building. All five have been disinfected and are being monitored by health officials.
All of those sites must submit long-term plans on protecting the cooling towers from any return of the bacteria.
The Health Department stressed that the disease is not passed from person to person, but contracted by inhaling water contaminated with the 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.
Symptoms include headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear two to 10 days after significant exposure to the bacteria.
The city’s drinking water, pools, fountains, water towers and buildings cooled with air conditioners are all safe, city officials said.
Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said a “comprehensive package” of new legislation would be announced this week to halt future outbreaks of Legionnaires’, with emphasis on long-term prevention. Outbreaks of the disease “have become far too common over the past ten years, and the City will respond not by only addressing an outbreak as it occurs, but with a new plan to help prevent these outbreaks from happening in the first place,” he said.
The New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is continuing to watch out for new cases in close collaboration with area hospitals and has deployed “disease detectives” to conduct epidemiological investigations. Health officials are also conducting an outreach program in senior centers and homeless shelters in order to educate those most at risk from the disease.
The disease gets its name from an outbreak of pneumonia that killed 29 people attending an American Legion convention at a Philadelphia hotel in 1976. Months later the cause was traced to the previously unknown bacteria.
Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/08/06/legionnaires-death-toll-eight/31200561/