Health Department Investigating Community Cluster of Legionnaires’ Disease in Lower Washington Heights

Eight cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been reported in the last seven days

Legionnaires’ disease is not contagious and is easily treatable when caught early

Adults with flu-like symptoms, fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should seek immediate medical attention

July 11, 2018 — The Health Department is currently investigating a community cluster of Legionnaires’ disease in Lower Washington Heights. Eight people have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease in the last seven days. All but one hospitalized and one has been discharged. Ages of the individuals ranged from under 40 to over 80, but most were ages 50 and above. There have been no deaths associated with this cluster. The Health Department is actively investigating these cases and is sampling and testing water from all cooling tower systems in the area of the cluster. The Health Department will hold a community meeting at Saint Luke’s AME, 1872 Amsterdam Ave on Thursday evening at 7PM. As always, New Yorkers with flu-like symptoms, cough, fever or difficulty breathing should contact a physician immediately. People get Legionnaires’ disease by breathing in water vapor that contains bacteria. Legionnaires’ disease is not contagious and is easily treated with antibiotics when caught early.

“The Health Department has identified a cluster of Legionnaires disease in the Lower Washington Heights area,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “While most people exposed to Legionella don’t get sick, individuals ages 50 and above, especially those who smoke and have chronic lung conditions, are at a higher risk. This disease is very treatable with antibiotics. I encourage anyone with symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease to seek care early.”

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that is caused by the bacteria Legionella, which grows in warm water. Symptoms resemble other types of pneumonia and can include fever, chills, muscle aches, and cough. Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as cooling towers, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks, and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.

Individuals only get sick by breathing in water vapor containing Legionella, and the disease is not transmitted from person to person. Individuals at higher risk include those ages 50 and above, cigarette smokers, and people with chronic lung disease or compromised immune systems. People living or working in the area who are experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention with a primary care provider or seek urgent care.



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