Update, Oct. 26
The two illnesses being investigated in the Flushing outbreak have been confirmed as Legionnaires’ disease, bringing the total to 14 people infected. Two patients remain hospitalized; the other 12 have been treated and released.
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) said it is still seeking the source(s) for the bacteria responsible for the cluster. Officials said preliminary tests of 10 of the 52 cooling towers returned positive results for Legionella DNA. Additional testing will take about two weeks to determine if any tower contained live Legionella bacteria, which is the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease. The DOHMH will order the owner of any building with a positive result to completely clean and disinfect their cooling tower(s).
Original post, Oct. 25
The New York City Department of Health is investigating an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens in which 12 people have been hospitalized the past two weeks, numerous news sources are reporting. Five people are still in the hospital recovering.
A majority of the 12 victims suffer from serious underlying health conditions. The ages of those infected range from the 30s to the 80s.
The NYC Health Department is investigating the outbreak. Officials said the department has taken water samples from all cooling tower systems within the investigation zone to test for Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease.
To raise awareness in the community, the Health Department and the Mayor’s office have sent outreach teams to transit hubs and senior centers in the area to distribute information about Legionnaires’ disease. Health Department officials said they are organizing a community meeting to inform residents, answer questions, and address concerns.
Residents in the area with respiratory symptoms – such as fever, cough, chills and muscle aches – are advised to seek medical attention.
CDC: About 25,000 cases of Legionnaires’ annually
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur in the United States annually. However, only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms.
Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which thrive in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments, such as cooling towers, air-conditioning systems, hot tubs, and spas, to name a few.
Complications of Legionnaires’ disease
After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is often necessary. In the most severe cases, complications can include respiratory failure, kidney failure, septic shock, or even death.
Anyone can get the disease, but those at the greatest risk of infection include:
- people 50 or older
- smokers (current or former)
- heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
- people with chronic lung disease
- people with weakened immune systems.
Elliot Olsen has decades of experience representing people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease, and he has regained millions of dollars in compensation for those victims. If you or a family member has become sick because of this outbreak, please call him at 612-337-6126, or complete the following: