12 People Are Now Dead in NYC Legionnaires’ Outbreak

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Legionella Pneumophila
Photo: BSIP/UIG

The largest Legionnaires’ outbreak in the city’s history has now left 12 people dead. At least 113 more South Bronx residents are sick.

Despite the increased death toll  — up from ten this weekend — and number of infections, Mayor de Blasio said Monday that all were previously unreported cases and no new people had been diagnosed since last week.

However, the situation is far from resolved. Two cooling towers
in the South Bronx — one at the city’s family homelessness intake shelter, the other at a nursing home — must now be decontaminated after both tested positive for the Legionnella bacteria, bringing the total of infected locations up to 12. Health officials are still uncertain of the exact cause of the outbreak, but they believe one of the first five cooling towers found to contain the bacteria is likely the source of the disease. According to NBC, results are still pending on five cooling towers, out of a total of 39 inspected. The city is also trying to pass legislation that would require all city buildings with cooling towers to test for Legionnella bacteria, and, if necessary, disinfect within 14 days or be charged with a misdemeanor crime.

NYC health commissioner Mary Bassett said the city is carefully re-tracing the movements of all people who have become ill from Legionnella since July 10. The bacteria is inhaled in water mist, but isn’t contagious among people. Officials also stressed that all those who have died so far were older or had underlying health complications.