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Legionnaires' Disease Kills 1, Hospitalizes 6 on UES, Health Dept. Says

By Shaye Weaver | June 16, 2017 3:25pm | Updated on June 19, 2017 6:57am
 The Health Department is investigating an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the Lenox Hill area.
The Health Department is investigating an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the Lenox Hill area.
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Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock

LENOX HILL — A Legionnaires' disease outbreak has killed one person and infected six others in in the Lenox Hill area around Third Avenue and East 70th Street, according to Department of Health officials.

Over the course of the last 11 days, one person in their 90s has died from the disease, while four people are hospitalized and recovering, and two have been discharged from the hospital, Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said..

"We want anyone who lives in or has spent considerable time in the Lenox Hill area not to delay but to seek treatment early if they have the following symptoms-- fever, chills, muscle aches, shortness of breath, coughing, or gastrointestinal," Bassett said at a hastily organized press conference Friday afternoon.

She said that the department identified an increase and cluster of Legionnaires' disease within half a kilometer radius of the area and is investigating to determine its source, focusing on cooling towers within the neighborhood.

"All 116 cooling towers within half a kilometer have had water samples obtained and at the end of today, I expect them all to have full inspections completed," Bassett said.

The commissioner said she did not know which buildings were affected, but have sent investigators to the area and are interviewing the surviving victims.

"We attempt to figure out where they've been for every minute of everyday during the period in which they may have become infected," Bassett said.

Symptoms of the Legionnaires' disease include those similar to the flu, such as headache, fever and coughing, as well as fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea, according to the Health Department’s website.

Symptoms appear two to 10 days after “significant exposure” to Legionella bacteria, the agency advises.

The city receives an average of 200 to 400 reports of the disease a year, according to health officials. About seven people have been diagnosed between June 5 and June 14, the commissioner said.

This is the latest case of Legionnaires' disease — earlier this week it was discovered that an outbreak occurred within East Harlem's 23rd Precinct station house

The largest outbreak happened in 2015 in the South Bronx, killing 12 people and sickening more than 120. The Bronx outbreak was traced to 15 cooling towers, prompting new legislation from the city

Cases of the disease can be traced to plumbing systems that foster Legionella growth, such as cooling towers and components of large air-conditioning systems, according to the Health Department’s site.

A law passed after the Bronx outbreak requires cooling towers to be tested for the bacteria quarterly and the Health Department does annual surprise inspections.