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

Eight cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been reported within five days; there are no deaths associated with the cluster

The Health Department has sampled 20 cooling towers within a mile radius; cooling towers that test positive for legionella will immediately be ordered to increase biocide

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

October 5, 2018 — The Health Department is currently investigating a second community cluster of Legionnaires’ disease in Lower Washington Heights. Eight people have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease within five days. All eight have been hospitalized and one has been discharged. Ages of the individuals range from under 40 to over 80, with the majority of cases over 50 years of age. 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 active cooling tower systems in the area of the cluster. The Health Department will hold a community meeting on Monday, October 8th at The Jackie Robinson Recreation Center at 85 Bradhurst Avenue at 6pm.

“The Health Department has identified a second cluster this season of Legionnaires disease in the Lower Washington Heights area and we are taking aggressive steps to ensure the safety of residents,” said Acting Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “We have ordered the Sugar Hill development, which operates the cooling tower identified as the source of the July cluster and had cleaned and disintected at that time, to clean and disinfect again given its proximity to new cases. Although the risk is very low, we urge residents and people who work in the area to take precautions. Legionnaires‘ disease is not contagious and can be treated with common antibotics if caught early. Anyone with flu-like symptoms such as cough, fever or difficulty breathing should seek medical attention immediately.”

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 may be infected 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.

If residents have concerns they can call 311 or email the Health Department’s Office of Community Affairs, communityaffairs@health.nyc.gov.

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