As New York City health officials have reported, 10 people in Bronx have been infected with Legionnaires’ disease recently.
It appears that this is a new cluster of cases, following the deadly outbreak which occurred in the summer, killing 12 people and sickening more than 100. That health crisis, which affected South Bronx, originated because of a contaminated cooling tower, at the Opera House Hotel.
It was actually the most severe infection with this type of bacterial pneumonia in the city’s history. Given its impact, it prompted authorities to pass legislation requiring cooling towers to be periodically test for the bacteria.
The patients identified in the new epidemic are all from the Morris Park neighborhood, and have required hospitalization. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the first case was reported on September 21, and one of the patients has already been treated and released from hospital.
An investigation has been conducted in order to determine the source of this recent contamination, and samples were taken from the neighborhood. Scientists have analyzed them and detected the presence of the Legionella pneumophila bacteria in 7 cooling towers. Although it appears the locations had already been recently cleaned, now they are again being disinfected, to help curb the outbreak.
Given these findings, health department authorities urge medical practitioners to stay in alert, and immediately carry out tests to identify the disease if they encounter patients who display related symptoms.
The most common signs of infection with Legionnaires’ disease are high fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches and headaches. Around half of the infected patients have gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea) or neurological problems, such as confusion and cognitive impairment.
Normally, the symptoms appear 2 to 10 days after the initial bacterial exposure, but they can be delayed and occur after 2 weeks. Every year, between 8,000 and 18,000 people require hospitalization due to Legionnaires’ disease, according to estimations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Around 200-300 of these cases are reported in New York city, as health officials reckon.
This bacterial pneumonia is particularly dangerous for smokers, elderly people, immunocompromised patients, or for those who suffer from chronic lung disease. When the infection is not treated properly, its complications include respiratory failure, septic shock, acute kidney failure, and eventually death.
Most outbreaks occur in large buildings, as the legionella bacteria thrives in water systems such as hot tubs, air conditioners and grocery store mist sprayers.
Infections usually happen when people inhale tiny water droplets containing the bacteria, which have been dispersed by showers, cooling towers, ventilation systems, fountains or swimming pools. On the other hand, the disease can’t be transmitted from person to person, and is usually curable with antibiotic treatment.
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