Health

Legionnaires' Disease Outbreak: 8 Dead, 97 People Sick In NYC (Video)

| by Jonathan Constante

Another death has been linked to the Legionnaire’s disease outbreak in New York City, bringing the total death toll to 8 in the last three weeks (video below).

Legionnaires' disease is a potentially lethal form of pneumonia that can be spread through the air, NBC 4 New York reports. A total of 97 cases of the disease has been reported in the south Bronx since July 10, city officials said Wednesday.

The Department of Health and Mental Health said those who died from the disease were older adults who suffered from other medical problems. Mayor De Blasio and Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said last week that there was no concern for alarm. However, 51 new cases have been reported since last Wednesday.

The disease is caused by exposure to the bacteria legionella. It is usually spread through cooling towers, hot tubs, showers and faucets or drinking water.

Twenty-two buildings have been examined by specialists as they try to identify the source of the outbreak. Seventeen of those buildings have cooling towers and five tested positive for the bacteria.

The cooling towers of Lincoln Hospital, Concourse Plaza, a shopping plaza, a Verizon office building and the Opera House Hotel have all been decontaminated, the city said last Friday. Bassett said the contaminated cooling towers did not affect the water in the Bronx and that tap water is still safe to drink.

De Blasio said Tuesday that officials believe they identified the only sites containing the dangerous bacteria and no other cooling towers are believed to be contaminated at this time. The cooling towers that were contaminated must submit long-term plans on how they will protect against any future growth of legionella. Those plans are due by Friday.

Bassett said they believe one of the five contaminated cooling towers was the primary source of the outbreak, although it will likely take weeks to confirm.

"This is the largest outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that we are aware of in New York City," Bassett said Tuesday. "Although we will continue to see cases, we expect the case rate to decline and the number of cases to fall over the coming weeks."

However, the additional death along with announcement of 11 new cases on Wednesday has residents in the Bronx concerned. Dr. Robert Glatter of Lenox Hill Hospital said this is likely caused by the incubation period, which can last up to two weeks.

"So we're going to continue to see more cases," Glatter told NBC 4 New York.

De Blasio is asking anyone with symptoms that include shortness of breath, high fever, chills and chest pains to seek immediate medical attention. The disease itself can take anywhere between two to 10 days to set in.

"People have to understand that this is a disease that can be treated -- and can be treated well if caught early," de Blasio said last Thursday. "The exception can be with folks who are already unfortunately suffering from health challenges, particularly immune system challenges. But for the vast majority of New Yorkers, if they were even exposed, this can be addressed very well and very quickly so long as they seek medical treatment."

Dr. Glatter reiterated the mayor’s statement this week.

"Most people who get this, who are otherwise healthy, they get a mild flu, get better, and they don't need antibiotics," he said Wednesday.

Sources: NBC 4 New York, USA Today

 Photo Credit: USA Today, Wikipedia