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Two New York City MTA employees have contracted Legionnaires’ disease, MTA officials said.

MTA officials said the two employees work out of separate locations. It is unknown where or how either employee contracted the disease.

One is a highway patrol officer with the Bridge and Tunnel division, based at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge administration offices on Staten Island. He was hospitalized but has since been released, said Wayne Joseph, president of the Bridge and Tunnel Officers Benevolent Association (BTOBA). The officer, a 14-year veteran of the MTA, travels to multiple locations as part of his duty.

The second ill employee works out of Randall’s Island in Queens and is not a member of the BTOBA. That employee was treated and discharged after being diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is North America’s most extensive public transportation network. It serves a population of 15.3 million people within a 5,000-square-mile area that includes the city’s five boroughs (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island) and extends through Long Island, southeastern New York State, and Connecticut.

New York City MTA: more could be affected

Two additional MTA employees – a lieutenant and a maintenance worker – were suffering Legionnaires’-like symptoms (see below) and instructed by a doctor to “not to return to work,” Joseph said. Neither was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.

Joseph said a group of employees is awaiting test results for Legionnaires’ disease, so the number of infected could grow.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are working with the State Health Department to conduct a full investigation,” the MTA said in a statement.

New York City MTA employees contract Legionnaires' disease

Two New York City MTA employees have contracted Legionnaires’ disease, MTA officials said. The two employees work out of separate locations.

New York City MTA: showers shut down

A memo sent by Renee Shepherd, director of MTA Bridges South, warned employees at the Staten Island location that the locker-room showers were temporarily closed. “Please be advised that until further notice, the showers in this area are not to be used,” the memo read. “I apologize for any inconvenience.”

CBS2 reported that sources informed the station that Legionella – the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease – was discovered in the shower heads at the Verrazano-Narrows bridge facility.

MTA employees who are feeling flu-like symptoms have been advised to see their health-care provider immediately.

New York City MTA: more Legionella woes

It has been another busy summer for Legionella in New York City.

On July 8, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) reported that eight cases of Legionnaires’ disease were confirmed in lower Washington Heights and upper Hamilton Heights. Since that date, the case count has increased to 27, and one victim has died.

The Staten Island officer had “not patrolled or been in Washington Heights,” Joseph said.

Later in July, two cases of Legionnaires’ disease were confirmed at Clinton Manor in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. In addition, health officials confirmed that Legionella bacteria were found in the water supply of the Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.

New York City MTA: disease info

Legionnaires’ disease is also known as legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia. It is similar to other types of pneumonia, which is an infection of the air sacs in one or both lungs that might produce fluid in the lungs.

Symptoms can resemble flu-like symptoms, such as:

  • coughing
  • shortness of breath, also called dyspnea
  • high fever
  • muscle pains
  • severe headaches
  • gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, etc.).

Legionnaires’ disease cannot be passed person-to-person, and it is easily cured with antibiotics if diagnosed early.

The severity of the illness is illustrated in a new Epidemiology & Infection study from the University of Minnesota. Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), “approximately 9 percent of legionellosis cases caused by waterborne Legionella bacteria are fatal, and 40 percent require intensive care.”

An underreported disease
According to the CDC, an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur yearly in the U.S. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments.

Legionella sources
Legionnaires’ disease occurs more frequently in hot, humid weather because Legionella grow best in warm water. The bacteria are found primarily in human-made environments.

Outbreaks have been linked to a number of sources:

  • water systems, such as those used in apartments, hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
  • cooling towers of air conditioning systems
  • large plumbing systems
  • hot-water heaters and tanks
  • locker-room showers and faucets
  • swimming pools, whirlpools and hot tubs
  • physical-therapy equipment
  • mist machines, such as those used in the produce sections of grocery stores
  • hand-held sprayers
  • decorative fountains.