Two Dead In New York Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak

Two people have died due to the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the South Bronx borough of New York City. According to the New York City Department of Health and Hygiene, 31 cases of Legionnaires’ have been reported since mid-July of this year.

Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterial infection that occurs in the respiratory tract and displays flu-like symptoms. Legionnaires’ is not spread from person to person, but can be spread through water sources, such as air conditioning units, showers, or cooling towers. Most of those who contract Legionnaires’ recover, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 5 percent and 30 percent of those infected die.

“We are concerned about this unusual increase in Legionnaires’ disease cases in the South Bronx,” said Dr. Mary Bassett, commissioner of the New York City health department.

“We are conducting a swift investigation to determine the source of the outbreak and prevent future cases. I urge anyone with symptoms to seek medical attention right away.”

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease may include coughing, shortness of breath, headaches, fever, and chills. After the second or third day of contracting Legionnaires’, symptoms may include coughing up mucus or blood, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, or confusion.

Legionnaires’ is a serious form of pneumonia caused by the bacteria legionella. A milder infection also caused by the legionella bacteria is called Pontiac fever. The term “legionellosis” can be used to describe both Legionnaires’ and Pontiac Fever.

Legionnaires’ can survive in water and soil, but rarely causes infections through these outlets. It is mainly through water systems in which the bacteria chooses to reproduce, and most Legionnaires’ disease infections occur in large buildings, as the complex water system allows the bacteria to grow and spread more quickly.

Infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner says that 31 infections signifies a sizeable outbreak for Legionnaire’s disease, and because of this, health officials are expected to look for a public source if many of the infected reside in the same neighborhood.

“By localizing it geographically you can look up and see if you can find cooling towers that might be contaminated.”

Although swift treatment with antibiotics usually cures Legionnaires’ disease, some patients continue to experience symptoms after treatment.

Legionnaires’ disease was named after an outbreak at an American Legion conference at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia in 1976. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Legionnaires’ infection hospitalizes 8,000 to 18,000 people in the United States per year. If you suspect that you may have contracted Legionnaires’, seek medical attention immediately.

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