The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

2nd NYPD Officer From East Harlem Precinct Contracts Legionnaires' Disease

By  Trevor Kapp Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska and Nicholas Rizzi | June 23, 2017 12:00pm | Updated on June 25, 2017 4:17pm

 The 23rd Precinct station house, at 162 E. 102nd St.
The 23rd Precinct station house, at 162 E. 102nd St.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

EAST HARLEM — A second police officer from a local NYPD stationhouse has been diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease this month, the precinct's commanding officer confirmed Friday.

A switchboard operator from the 23rd Precinct, located at 162 E. 102nd St., was diagnosed with the disease this week after he called out sick Monday, said Deputy Inspector Benjamin Gurley.

"We just do have two officers that have Legionnaires' disease. This particular officer is fine," Gurley said. "He’s taking his medication and being treated with antibiotics."

Gurley added that Health Department inspectors are looking into the case but that they haven't confirmed the officer actually contracted it at the stationhouse.

 The 23rd Precinct is cautioning against drinking water inside.
The 23rd Precinct is cautioning against drinking water inside.
View Full Caption

"We don’t know," the commanding officer said. "We have over 250 personnel here. It’s hard to tell what’s going on."

PARS Environmental, Inc., a New Jersey-based consulting firm, was conducting tests inside the precinct Friday afternoon, sources said.

Health officials first found traces of the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease in the precinct's water earlier this month after another officer, whose name was not released, fell ill and was hospitalized, the NYPD said at the time.

That officer had a pre-existing condition that made him more susceptible to infection, law-enforcement sources said.

The air-conditioning unit in the precinct has been off since October and was replaced last month with a different unit that has yet to be activated, leading officials to believe the cooling system is not the issue, sources said.

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association hired Manhattan-based company Omega Environmental Services to conduct its own tests earlier this month. It found that 19 out of the 20 samples it took tested positive for the disease, sources said. 

However, the Health Department also sampled water outlets at the precinct to look for strains of Legionella bacteria and its initial tests have come back negative, spokesman Julien Martinez said.

Legionnaires could've been transferred through steam from the showers, sources said. 

"It's ridiculous," said one precinct source. "They should be providing more help to the officers."

The first officer still hasn't returned to work since coming down with the disease, though Martinez said, "Both officers are doing well."

Symptoms of Legionnaires' include some similar to the flu — like headache, fever and coughing — as well as fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea, according to the Health Department.

"The Health Department has been working closely with the NYPD on an investigation and response at the precinct," Martinez said in a statement.

"On June 20, the Department learned that a person who works at the precinct had developed mild symptoms of Pontiac fever [an illness caused by Legionella, the same bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease] at around the same time that an officer from the same precinct was diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease."

"The Health Department is conducting additional rounds of tests to confirm the long-term efficacy of this treatment," he said.

The city receives an average of 200 to 400 reports of the disease a year, including two cases that were found at a Harlem apartment complex last year.

Earlier this month, an outbreak on the Upper East Side killed one person and hospitalized six others, with health officials unsure of where it originated. 

A 2015 outbreak in the South Bronx killed 12 people and sickened more than 120. 

The disease can be contracted by breathing in water vapor contaminated with the Legionella bacteria, which grows in hot tubs, cooling towers, large plumbing systems and more.

Since the bacteria was found at the stationhouse, inspectors have begun testing the pipes and the precinct has put in precautions on how to use the water inside, Gurley said.

"One of the main concerns was about showering," he said. "You can use the bathroom, you can wash your hands, but the main thing was to cut out the showering."

However, a sign inside the stationhouse warns, "Do not use or drink the water in the pct."

Gurley added that they brought in outside water for officers to drink.