An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease is sweeping across New York City, New York, which has killed four people now, and has sickened 65 people. New York City health officials are saying that this is occurring in the Bronx section and the wave of this severe type of pneumonia has been hitting the area since July 10.
Officials are calling this wave of Legionnaires’ as very unusual, and the last recorded outbreak in the Brox happened in December of 2014, which sickened 12 people. This means that the current outbreak has been more than 5 times as severe, which is leading officials to feel very concerned that this disease could spread even more, and cause more deaths in the near future. Legionnaires’ disease is caused by Legionella, which is a bacteria found in certain plumbing systems, such as hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, and humidifiers. The disease is spread by breathing in the mist from the water, but it cannot be spread through person to person contact. This illness spreads the most during the summer and early fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People who have this disease will experience fever, muscle aches, headaches, and a pretty severe cough. It is comparable to either having regular pneumonia or you might feel like you have the flu, meaning you may also feel weak or lethargic, and you also might feel like you are unable to breath correctly. People who have the disease might also notice that they cannot sustain physical activity for normal periods of time, and may also get dizzy or lightheaded when engaging in physical activity.
Since the outbreak began on July 10, the health department for New York City has inspected 22 buildings within the Bronx, and 17 of those buildings have cooling towers. 5 buildings, including the Opera House Hotel, Lincoln Medical Center, and the Concourse Plaza mall and movie complex, have all tested positive for Legionella. The 5 buildings have already been disinfected or are currently in the process of being disinfected. General Manager of the Opera House Hotel, Julio Vargas, said that the cooling tower water, which is used by the hotel has already been treated and disinfected, and no reports of hotel guests falling ill. The people who have died from the disease were all older adults and they had underlying medical problems, at least according to the press release from the city. The health department said that the drinking water supply for the city, as well as the fountains and pools were not affected by the outbreak.
If you wonder how Legionnaires’ disease got its name, it was after a 1976 outbreak that affected a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion, which is an organization for the veterans. Within the United States, around 8,000 to 10,000 people every year are hospitalized with the disease, according to statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most people who wind up with the disease do not die from it, but people with weakened immune systems such as the elderly or those with certain medical conditions do end up being more susceptible to the disease and often times cannot fight off the disease as well as the younger and healthier population. For now, health officials are warning people around the Bronx area to be cautious and keep an eye out for symptoms, especially if you think you are coming down with a cold or flu and it just don’t go away. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as you can, especially if you do have other health problems or are older, because this is the population that is the most vulnerable to the disease. Most people though tend to get over the disease within a couple weeks if treatment is sought out and an appropriate diagnosis is given. It is not known what really set the disease off in the Bronx area, although with the humidity and hot summer weather, it makes for the best conditions for the disease to fester and then spread.