NYC Legionnaires' Death Toll Rises to Four

The disease is caused by Legionella bacteria; it is not spread person to person.

Four people have died and 65 others have become ill as the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene investigates a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the South Bronx. All of the cases have been reported since July 10; the department cautions New Yorkers with respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, chills, and muscle aches, promptly to seek medical attention.

The department is testing water from cooling towers and other potential sources in the area to find the source of the outbreak. “We are concerned about this unusual increase in Legionnaires' disease cases in the South Bronx," Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said. "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."

The disease is caused by Legionella bacteria; it is not spread person to person. Additional symptoms include headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion, and diarrhea; symptoms usually appear two to 10 days after significant exposure to the bacteria, according to information on the department's website. "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."

Groups at high risk for Legionnaire's disease include older people – especially cigarette smokers – as well as people with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems and people who take immunosuppressive drugs.

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    March 2021

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