September 28, 2015

Press Release # 039-15
Monday, September 28, 2015

MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Carolina Rodriguez (347) 396-4177

Health Department Investigating Cluster of Legionnaires’ Disease in Morris Park Section of the Bronx

The Health Department is currently investigating a cluster of seven Legionnaires' disease cases in the Morris Park section of the Bronx. This cluster is unrelated to the outbreak in the South Bronx this summer that was attributed to Legionella found in the cooling tower of the Opera House Hotel. Patients in the current cluster live or work in Morris Park, range in age from 45 to 75 and are all currently hospitalized. There have been no deaths. New Yorkers with respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough, chills and difficulty breathing, are advised to promptly seek medical attention.

“We are investigating a cluster of seven cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Morris Park. I urge all New Yorkers to seek care immediately if they have flu -like symptoms, including fever, cough, headache, or difficulty breathing. The Department is taking immediate steps to determine the source and protect the people who live and work in Morris Park,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.

As soon as the possibility of a cluster was identified, DOHMH began an aggressive response:

  • The Health Department was notified of these seven cases between Sept. 21 and Sept. 27
  • On Sept. 21, when the first case was reported, the Health Department’s disease detectives began investigating immediately. This work initially involves interviewing patients and reviewing medical records.
  • Since Saturday, environmental scientists visited all cooling towers and took samples.
  • Issued a Health Alert to providers advising them to look for symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease, conduct appropriate tests on patients, and provide proper samples to the Department for lab testing
  • Conducting tests at our Public Health Lab and the New York State Wadsworth Center
  • Monitoring Emergency Department visits for pneumonia among residents of Morris Park, which have remained at normal levels
  • Identifying facilities such as nursing homes and senior centers where vulnerable populations live in and near Morris Park. Starting today, the Department will work with other City agencies to send staff to these locations, distributing Frequently Asked Questions about Legionnaires’ disease, answering questions and reminding people to seek care immediately if they have symptoms such as fever, chills and muscle ache.

About Legionnaires’ Disease

Legionnaires' disease is caused by the bacteria Legionella, and New York City sees 200-300 cases each year. Additional symptoms include: headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear two (2) to 10 days after significant exposure to Legionella 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.

Legionnaires' disease cannot be spread from person to person. Groups at high risk for Legionnaire’s disease 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). Those with symptoms should call their doctor and ask about testing for Legionnaire’s disease. New York City’s drinking water supply and drinking water tanks are unaffected.

For more information about Legionnaires’ disease, please visit the Health Department website.