Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office reported Wednesday that an outbreak of an infectious disease called the Legionnaires’ disease affected dozens of people and killed two in the South Bronx . As of July 10, 31 residents contracted the disease, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The neighborhoods of Hunts Point, Highbridge, and Mott Haven were the most affected, officials said. Health officials are currently conducting an investigation trying to find the root cause of the outbreak.
Yet, authorities are concerned by the size of the outbreak and fear that it may become even worse if they fail to contain it and find its cause. Department workers are currently analyzing the water from air-conditioning systems and cooling towers to see whether it is contaminated with the Legionella bacteria. Doctors said that the bacteria can pass from one person to another.
The disease’s symptoms are very similar to pneumonia’s – chills and fever, loss of energy and appetite, headaches and muscle pain. But smokers, people with a weak immune system, lung disease patients, children, and the elderly should be extra careful since they are at the highest risk.
Nevertheless, doctors reassured population that the disease is relatively common and perfectly curable. Infectious disease experts caution that symptoms are not visible from day one since contamination. The bacteria need a couple of days to two weeks to generate the illness.
Legionella bacteria often dwell in air-conditioning systems and cooling towers that aren’t properly cleaned. An outbreak usually occurs when many people gather in a place that is ventilated by one such air-conditioning system. So, people attending a wedding or a business meeting should be wary.
“If the cooling tower is contaminated, that bacteria can get into the air-conditioning vents and then people inhale the bacteria and come down with infection,”
The CDC recently reported that 8,000 to 18,000 Americans land in the hospital due to the disease. Between 2002 and 2011, New York City had nearly 1,500 cases of Legionnaires’ disease, according to CDC experts. Of those, 185 died before they were diagnosed with the disease.
In 2014, 225 new cases were reported in the city. But the South Bronx is not a unique case. Other locations in Bronx were ravaged by the disease. For instance, the bacteria was found in Co-Op City cooling towers, so eight Co-Op City residents developed the disease.
The cooling towers were eventually decontaminated with chlorine. Officials reported that Co-Op City recycled the cooling tower water and used it to cool down its heating and electrical systems thus unknowingly sickening its residents.
Image Source: Grundfos
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