Legionnaires' Disease Outbreak In Washington Heights Sickens 8

Patch-Logo.png By Brendan Krisel

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, NY — The New York City Health Department is investigating a cluster of Legionnaires' Disease reported in Washington Heights.

Eight people fell ill with Legionnaires' Disease in the past seven days in Washington Heights, city health officials said. All but one of the people who contracted the disease were hospitalized and one person has since been discharged from the hospital, officials said.

None of the cases have proved deadly, health officials said.

"The Health Department has identified a cluster of Legionnaires' disease in the Lower Washington Heights area," said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. "While most people exposed to Legionella don't get sick, individuals ages 50 and above, especially those who smoke and have chronic lung conditions, are at a higher risk. This disease is very treatable with antibiotics. I encourage anyone with symptoms of Legionnaires' disease to seek care early."

The ages of people sickened in Washington Heights range from 40- to 80-years-old, but a majority of the cases were people older than 50, health officials said.

The city Health Department will test water samples from cooling towers in buildings near the outbreak, officials said. The department listed the area of the outbreak as "lower Washington Heights," but did not provide details as to what that area entails. A Health Department spokeswoman told Patch that the department does not disclose the specific locations of outbreaks.

A community meeting will be held at Saint Luke's AME at 1872 Amsterdam Ave., located between West 152nd and 153rd streets, to discuss the outbreak. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., health officials said.

Legionnaires' symptoms include fever, cough, chills, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea and generally surface two to 10 days after contact with the bacteria Legionella. Common culprits in the spread of the Legionella bacteria include cooling towers, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks, and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems, the Department of Health said.

The disease cannot be spread from one person to another, the Department of Health said in a statement.

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