New York City health officials are now investigating an outbreak of Legionaires’ disease which has sickened 31 people and killed 2 others in the South Bronx since July 10th. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Health Commissioner Mary Bassett, the majority of cases have occurred in the Mott Haven, High Bridge, Hunts Point and Morisana sections.
Legionnaires’ disease (so named after first being diagnosed during an American Legion conference in Philadelphia in 1976), is a respiratory bacterial infection usually spread through mist that comes from a water source, such as cooling towers, air conditioning, spas, hot tubs or showers. While symptoms can resemble those of a bad cold or pneumonia such as headache, chills, fever (which may go up to 104 F or more), muscle aches, and a bad cough, it is not transmitted from one person to another. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are also common.
Although the majority of patients recover, the CDC reports that 5%-30% with the disease do die. They also reported that approximately 8,000-18,000 cases of Legionaires’ disease require hospitalization throughout the US each year. They also pointed out that, while Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, a milder form of the disease known as Pontiac fever does not, and usually runs its course within 2-5 days.
“We are conducting a swift investigation to determine the source of the outbreak and prevent future cases. I urge anyone with symptoms to seek medical attention right away,” stated Basset. “Diagnosing and treating Legionnaires’ disease as soon as possible can help shorten the recovery period and prevent serious complications.”