Legionnaires' Disease

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A Commissioner's Order has been put into effect. All building owners with cooling towers must follow the orders. Click here for more information.

Updated August 20, 2015

The Health Department, in close coordination with the State's Wadsworth Center Laboratory and the CDC, identified the source of the Legionnaires' Disease outbreak in the South Bronx and declared the Legionnaires' outbreak over. The laboratories have matched the Legionella strain found in the Opera House Hotel cooling tower with the strain found in patients. The Health Department continues to investigate the circumstances that led this cooling tower to become the outbreak source. If you live in the area and experience respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough, chills and muscle aches, seek medical attention right away.

Read the full update from the Health Department

(Legionellosis)
View the Legionnaires' Disease Outbreak Timeline (PDF)
View Find the Source (PDF), a map that links cooling towers and patients by DNA.
Bronx Legionnaires' Disease Cluster Case Update 8/15/15

Download a PDF version of the Legionellosis Basics FAQs Other languages: [中文] [Français] [Español]
Download a PDF version of the South Bronx specific Legionellosis FAQs Other languages: [Français] [Español]

What is Legionnaires' disease?

Legionnaires' disease (or Legionellosis) is a type of pneumonia. It is caused by a type of bacteria (Legionella) that grows in warm water.

Is the disease contagious?

No. Legionnaires' disease is not spread from person to person. People only get sick by breathing in water vapor containing the bacteria (for example, by inhaling contaminated mist from faucets, showers, whirlpools or cooling towers). People who are sick cannot make others sick.

What is the difference between a water tank and a cooling tower?

A cooling tower contains water and is used by some buildings as part of their air conditioning, ventilation and/or heating systems.

A water tank is a totally separate system. Some taller buildings use a water tank to store water used for drinking, washing dishes and/or showering. No water tanks are associated with the current South Bronx outbreak.

Is the tap water in the South Bronx safe to drink, wash and bathe with?

Yes. It is safe to drink, wash and bathe with the tap water in the South Bronx and throughout the city.

Who is at risk?

Groups at high risk include people who are middle-aged or older—especially cigarette smokers—people with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems and people who take medicines that weaken their immune systems (immunosuppressive drugs).

What are the symptoms of Legionnaires' Disease?

Symptoms resemble other types of pneumonia and can include fever, chills, muscle aches and cough. Some people may also have headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion or diarrhea.

What should I do if I think I have Legionnaires' disease?

If you have symptoms such as fever, chills and cough, call a doctor and get checked for pneumonia. If you have a medical condition that affects your breathing, like emphysema, or if you are a smoker, ask your doctor about testing for Legionnaires' disease.

What is the treatment for Legionnaires' disease?

The disease is treated with antibiotics. Most people get better with early treatment, although they may need to be hospitalized. In rare cases, people may get very sick or even die from complications of the disease.

Registration of cooling towers, evaporative condensers, and fluid coolers:

The law now requires the registration of cooling towers, fluid coolers and evaporative condensers with the City. If you have any of this equipment, you must register with the Department of Buildings at Cooling Tower Registration no later than Sept. 17, 2015. More information is available at the Department of Buildings’ website.

View Guidance for Building Owners: Cooling Towers and Health Commissioner Order (PDF) Other languages: [Español]

Bronx Legionnaires' Disease Cluster Case Update 8/15/15

Highlights

  • No new cases with onset of symptoms after 8/3.
  • Health officials remain confident that one or more of the five locations that initially tested positive was the source of the outbreak, and that through disinfection of the source, the outbreak has been contained.

Cases

  • Reported individuals with Legionnaires’: 124
  • Individuals treated and discharged: 94
  • Individuals with Legionnaires’ deceased: 12
  • All deceased individuals were adults with underlying medical conditions.

Safety of Water Supply and Air Conditioning

  • New York City's drinking water supply and other water features, like fountains, shower heads and pools, are safe throughout New York City and are unaffected by legionella
  • Water towers are unaffected by legionella
  • Home air conditioner units are unaffected and walking into air conditioned environments is safe, as well.

Locations and Remediation

  • All sites will submit long-term plans as to how they will maintain the cooling towers to protect against any future growth of legionella – those plans are due Friday.
  • The Health Department convened a panel of experts in the field of infectious disease to discuss the work the City has done so far and to ensure that all the appropriate steps are being taken to find and eliminate the source of the outbreak.

Ongoing Actions

  • Continued monitoring for new cases
  • Close collaboration with area hospitals
  • Disease detectives conducting epidemiological investigation
  • Interviews with all individuals reported with Legionnaires' to support source identification
  • Providing updates to elected officials and Bronx residents
  • Outreach to vulnerable populations – senior centers, homeless shelters, and other locations
  • Monitoring of disinfection of affected cooling towers

Community Affairs Unit

  • Over 25,000 flyers handed out since last week.
  • Nearly 600 buildings canvassed Thursday and Friday to determine if they had cooling towers.
  • Nearly 1,600 participants in 3 teletown halls.
  • Over 60,000 robocalls with information for Bronx residents.
  • Over 460 small businesses canvassed to provide fliers.
  • Outreach by medical professionals to all DFTA senior centers in the outbreak zone since last week.
  • Two town halls with Emergency Management, Health and Mental Hygiene, Environmental Protection this week.

NYC Emergency Management

  • NYC Emergency Management's Situation Room remains activated to support the City's response to Legionnaires' Disease in the Bronx.
  • Managing the Cooling Tower Task Force with dozens of representatives from NYCEM, Housing Preservation and Development, Department of Environmental Protection, and City Hall to prioritize buildings for cooling tower canvassing, track the progress of cooling tower sampling, and monitor cooling tower disinfection processes.
  • Operating a call center to handle public reporting of possible cooling tower locations; Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members will assist in the call center beginning Thursday.
  • Hosting multiple daily interagency calls to coordinate operations.
  • Coordinating and mapping data to ensure that all agencies are working with real-time, up-to-date information.
  • Will continue distributing health information at events throughout the week.
FAQ
  • New York City’s drinking water supply and other water features, like fountains, shower heads and pools, are safe throughout New York City and are unaffected by legionella.
  • Water towers are unaffected by legionella.
  • Home air conditioner units are unaffected and walking into air conditioned environments is safe, as well.
  • The Health Department convened a panel of experts in the field of infectious disease to discuss the work the City has done so far and to ensure that all the appropriate steps are being taken to find and eliminate the source of the outbreak.

Download a PDF graph of the Legionellosis Cluster in the South Bronx by diagnosis date
Download a PDF graph of the Legionellosis Cluster in the South Bronx by onset date

Past Event

Join community leaders, Health Department medical professionals and city officials in a town hall discussion to learn about Legionnaires ' disease and how the City is ensuring your safety.

Event: The Facts About Legionnaires' Disease
Time: Mon., Aug. 3, from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Place: Bronx Museum of the Arts – 1040 Grand Concourse, 2nd Fl. North Wing, Bronx, NY

Download the flyer