Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak Confirmed In New York City

A Legionnaires’ disease outbreak was confirmed by officials in New York City.

On Wednesday, The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene acknowledged 31 residents were diagnosed with the deadly disease. Two of those infected have died. Although the source of the bacteria is unknown, officials said the outbreak appears to be confined to the South Bronx.

As reported by Wall Street Journal, health officials said the confirmed cases originated in the Highbridge, Hunts Point, Morrisania, and Mott Haven neighborhoods.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by Legionella bacterium, which thrives in warm freshwater. Unlike other aquatic bacteria, Legionella does not generally occur in natural settings.

As discussed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, victims are more likely to become infected in industrialized settings — where warm water becomes stagnant during storage.

In many cases, Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks have been linked to cooling towers, which provide the perfect environment for the deadly bacteria. Victims become infected when the contaminated water is aerosolized by fountains, showers, and whirlpools.

Victims generally experience symptoms, which mimic pneumonia, within two weeks of exposure. As the symptoms can be severe, infection often requires hospitalization. According to the CDC, up to fifteen percent of those infected with Legionnaires’ disease will die.

The recent Legionnaires’ disease outbreak is New York City’s third in the last seven months.

In January, 12 residents of the Bronx were diagnosed with the deadly disease. Officials eventually linked the outbreak to a cooling tower at the Co-Op City highrise. Following decontamination, residents did not report any further infection.

In the months of April and May, 13 residents of Queens were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. Health officials eventually determined the outbreak originated at the New York City Housing Authority’s Bland House and an area senior citizen center.

While discussing the most recent Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, Health Commissioner Mary Bassett urged residents with possible symptoms to report to their family doctor for evaluation.

As reported by NBC, the specific source remains unknown. However, Bassett said the outbreak is still under investigation.

“We are concerned about this unusual increase in Legionnaires’ disease cases in the south Bronx… We are conducting a swift investigation to determine the source of the outbreak and prevent future cases.”

The Legionnaires’ disease outbreak is a serious concern, but health officials stress the fact that early diagnosis and treatment can prevent fatalities.

[Image via Shutterstock]