What's Up With This Preventable Water Disease?
Get The Facts on Legionnaires' & Find Out What You Can Do About It
Hello, NYC. Here we go again.
The Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) confirmed on June 1, that two people have now died from Legionnaires’ disease, bringing the number of cases up to 24 since May 3.
Health officials said four people are currently hospitalized. The latest figures were shared as part of an update into the investigation of a community disease cluster identified in The Bronx.
“The remediation ordered by the department for the four cooling towers that tested positive for the presence of Legionella pneumophila, a type of bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, was completed last week,” health department officials said in the latest available department update.
People contract Legionnaires’ disease by breathing in water vapor that contains Legionella bacteria. It’s a type of severe pneumonia caused by the bacteria Legionella, which grows in warm water.
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Symptoms resemble other types of pneumonia and can include fever, chills, muscle aches, and cough. Legionnaires’ disease can be caused by 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.
New Yorkers with flu-like symptoms, cough, fever, or difficulty breathing should contact a physician immediately.
Individuals at higher risk include:
those ages 50 and above
people with chronic lung disease or compromised immune systems
It’s 100 percent preventable and yet, cases continue to go up.
According to the CDC:
The number of people with Legionnaires’ disease grew by nearly 4 times from 2000 to 2014.
Legionnaires’ disease is deadly for about 10 percent of people who get it.
9 in 10. CDC investigations show almost all outbreaks were caused by problems preventable with more effective water management.
NYC is not the only place where we are seeing these clusters. Watch my latest video:
Riverside County health officials have been investigating a cluster of Legionnaires’ disease cases in Coachella Valley.
Riverside University Health System-Public Health is investigating a cluster of Legionnaires’ disease in Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and some surrounding communities stretching back months.
Health officials are aware of 20 confirmed cases of which 14 individuals were hospitalized, according to a March press release. Two deaths were reported.
Public Health is coordinating investigative activities with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Last summer, cases in Michigan were soaring thanks to warm weather, flooding rains, and reopening of buildings after pandemic restrictions, according to state health officials.
A Legionnaires’ outbreak occurred in 25 counties across the state but was concentrated in Southeast Michigan with over 60 percent of the 107 infections occurring in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties in the first two weeks of July.
A spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said that Legionella bacteria can grow in neglected and unused HVAC cooling towers.
Back in 2015, California’s San Quentin State Prison recorded 13 cases of Legionnaires’ disease. The source of the outbreak? Contaminated cooling towers in a health services building.
In 2020, another outbreak with more than 23 confirmed cases turned up at Coleman Correctional Complex, the largest women’s prison in the country, located in Sumter County, Florida.
Last summer (in 2021), state officials found Legionella bacteria in the water at two New Jersey prisons. You can read more about that mess here.
And the list goes on… Read more here.
What Can You Do?
Talk to your water operators and water treatment professionals!
Water management problems lead to Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks.
About 65 percent of cases are due to process failures, like not having a Legionella water management program.
About 1 in 2 (52 percent) are due to human error, such as a hot tub filter not being cleaned or replaced as recommended by the manufacturer.
About 1 in 3 are due to equipment, such as a disinfection system, not working.
About 1 in 3 are due to changes in water quality from reasons external to the building itself, like nearby construction.
Have you heard of Legionnaires’ disease? Share your stories in the comments below.