One person dead from Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Washington Heights

New_York_Daily_News_logo_(2).png By Elizabeth Elizalde and Mikey Light

A person diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease after an outbreak in an upper Manhattan neighborhood last week has died, city health officials said Tuesday.

Washington Heights has seen 18 cases of the disease, and nine people have been discharged from the hospital, according to the city Health Department.

Seven people remain hospitalized. The victim was over 50 years old and died in the past week, officials said.

The person, whose identity was not revealed, had other risk factors that potentially compromised his or her health.

Officials added the victim wasn’t diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease early.

“It’s really important if you’re feeling sick to get attention,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the city’s deputy commissioner for disease control.

He warned that the disease came from cooling towers in buildings. Window air conditioning units are not at risk, he said.

City Councilman Mark Levine, whose district covers the neighborhood, said all cooling towers have been inspected and cleaned but there could still be outbreaks because Legionnaires’ has a two-week incubation period.

So far, 20 cooling towers have been tested, but officials didn't say which one’s showed signs of the disease.

Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria that grows in warm water, and it can’t be transmitted from person to person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People usually contract the disease by breathing water vapor containing the bacteria, which can be traced in plumbing systems.

Symptoms of the disease include fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches and coughing. Most cases include people over 50.

There are between 200 and 500 cases of Legionnaires’ cases in New York City every year.

Levine, who is chairman of the Health Committee, said “all public hospitals will offer treatment regardless of ability to pay.”

“No New Yorker should let an inability to pay for care stop them from seeking medical treatment – @NYCHealthSystem will treat anyone who needs care regardless of their insurance status,” the councilman later tweeted.

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