Legionnaires’ Outbreak Is Over

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Legionella Pneumophila
Photo: BSIP/UIG

The Legionnaires’ outbreak that has plagued the South Bronx since July 10 is over. There have been no new reported cases since August 3, New York City health officials said Thursday. The disease has an incubation period of two to 10 days.

Officials also confirmed that the Opera House Hotel, on East 149th Street in the South Bronx, was the source of the Legionella strain that killed 12 and sickened more than 120 people. The Opera House Hotel was one of the first five cooling towers that tested positive for the bacteria. The city tested 25 people, including some who died, and all traced back to the hotel’s strain. Inspections turned up Legionella in a total of 18 towers citywide, but officials suspected the disease had come from the initial group of contaminated towers. The hotel was cleaned and disinfected August 1, officials say.

The hotel operators called the findings “disappointing” and said they conducted regular inspections, though did not specifically test for Legionella. The Opera House Hotel, which had been repurposed from a theater in a multi-million-dollar renovation completed in 2013, now plans to test every 30 days as a precaution.

With the goal of preventing future outbreaks, Mayor de Blasio signed into law this week new requirements to help regulate and maintain the city’s cooling towers. The law requires building owners and landlords citywide to register and inspect cooling towers every three months and decontaminate them immediately if tests come back positive for Legionella — or face up to a $25,000 fine. Governor Cuomo introduced a plan to regulate towers Statewide on Monday.

This Legionnaires’ outbreak was the worst in the city’s history. Between 2002 and 2011, the city has seen a 230 percent increase in the disease, which is breathed in from vapors or water mist, but isn’t contagious among people.