Legionnaire's Cases Reported in Washington Heights

Source:, July 16, 2018
By: David Chiu

Cooling Towers Have Been Linked to the Disease

The New York City Department of Health announced last week that it is investigating several cases of Legionnaire’s disease in the lower Washington Heights section of Manhattan. As of July 15, there were 16 people diagnosed with the condition in recent days, CBS2 News reported. The age range of those affected ranged from 40 to 80 years old.
“The Health Department has identified a cluster of Legionnaires disease in the Lower Washington Heights area,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a press statement. “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. This disease is very treatable with antibiotics. I encourage anyone with symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease to seek care early.”
Legionnaire’s is a form of pneumonia, said the department, caused by the bacteria that grow in warm water. People become ill after breathing in water vapor that has the bacteria. It is not contagious and does not transmit from person to person.

Among the flu-like symptoms of Legionnaire’s include fever, cough, chills and muscle aches; others may include headaches and diarrhea. Those with symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.
Cooling towers in buildings had been attributed to an outbreak of Legionnaire’s that occurred in the South Bronx in 2015. It prompted the city to mandate that all building owners register and test their cooling towers, fluid coolers, and evaporative condensers. (Registration can be done online here). Building owners are also required to file an annual certification that proves that the cooling equipment was inspected, tested, and cleaned, and disinfected under the Maintenance Program and Plan.
“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,” said the department.
Lorenzo McGougan, a 60-year-old Washington Heights resident, said he reported his case of Legionnaire’s to the Department of Health last May. At a recent community meeting, he asked officials on why there was no inspection of his building’s cooling towers. “It almost killed me,” McGougan told CBS2 News. “Believe me, I was near there. I’ve never been sick in my life.”

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