7 Dead in NYC Legionnaires' Disease Outbreak

By Sydney Devine
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

Aug. 4, 2015 -- Seven people have died and 86 have been sickened in a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in South Bronx, N.Y., according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Sixty-four of the people infected since July 10 had to be hospitalized, the department said Tuesday.

Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia caused by the bacteria Legionella pneumophila. People are usually exposed by breathing in mist or vapor in the air that contains the bacteria. The disease isn't contagious, and it typically doesn't cause large outbreaks.

Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, high fever, aches, and chills. People 50 and over face a higher risk of getting sick. The disease can be fatal, especially in older people with weakened immune systems.

The seven people who died were older adults who had other health problems, New York health officials said.

City officials identified the source of the outbreak after testing 17 cooling towers located on buildings. Tests showed that five of them had the bacteria, including those at Lincoln Hospital and the Opera House Hotel.

The bacteria has been removed from the towers, and New York City's water supply and other water features, such as pools, remain safe, the health department says.

The department says it will keep watching for new Legionnaires' cases.

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SOURCES: News release, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. CDC Web site. New York Times: " New York Officials Move to Regulate Towers Tied to Legionnaires' Disease Outbreak."

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