WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan – The New York City Health Department is investigating a community cluster of Legionnaires’ disease in Lower Washington Heights.
Eight people have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease in the last seven days. The cases are all from the same 20-block area.
All but one has been hospitalized and one has been discharged. Ages of the individuals range from under 40 to over 80, but most were ages 50 and above. There have been no deaths associated with this cluster.
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Legionnaires’ is a form of bacterial pneumonia. The elderly are at highest risk and it is potentially fatal, but it can be effectively treated with an early diagnosis.
People get Legionnaires’ disease by breathing in water vapor that contains bacteria. Health officials are testing water from all cooling tower systems in the area of the cluster.
Adults with flu-like symptoms, cough, fever or difficulty breathing should contact a physician immediately.
“While most people exposed to Legionella don’t get sick, individuals ages 50 and above, especially those who smoke and have chronic lung conditions, are at a higher risk,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “This disease is very treatable with antibiotics. I encourage anyone with symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease to seek care early.”
The Health Department will hold a community meeting at Saint Luke’s AME, 1872 Amsterdam Ave on Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m.
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that is caused by the bacteria Legionella, which grows in warm water. Symptoms resemble other types of pneumonia and can include fever, chills, muscle aches, and cough. Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as cooling towers, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks, and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.