Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126
Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires in New York City, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.


As Legionnaires’ disease illnesses continue to mount in near-record numbers in New York City, a joint investigation this summer by WNYC News and the Gothamist revealed that almost half of the city’s cooling towers are out of compliance with the law.

“As the Health Department issues violations to bring towers into compliance, many buildings with cooling towers are still failing to report the results of their inspections, leaving us to wonder if inspections are occurring at all,” NYC council member Ben Kallos told WNYC.

The 2015 law (Local Law 77), which was co-sponsored by Kallos and introduced by council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, passed unanimously by the New York City Council in a 42-0 vote after the deadliest outbreak of Legionnaires struck the city, killing 16 and sickening more than 130 in the south Bronx that year.

The cause of that outbreak? A cooling tower at the Opera House Hotel in the Bronx.

A current cluster of Legionnaires cases has killed one person and sickened 29 in Washington Heights, the second major outbreak to hit the area this year. The first killed one and sickened 27 over the summer.

The cause of the first outbreak was a cooling tower at the Sugar Hill Project in Harlem. The source of the current outbreak is under investigation.

Data recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the state of New York accounted for 37 percent of the nationwide cases in 2018, and those numbers continue to rise.

The discovery by WYNC and the Gothamist that building owners are openly disregarding Local Law 77 was the driving force behind the introduction of four new bills last week to reform the landmark law, which is considered the most stringent in the nation.

Four new proposals
Kallos introduced bill 1149-2018, which would require the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) to send electronic reminders and pre-filled inspection forms to owners and operators of cooling towers. It also would require qualified inspectors to document and submit inspection results electronically to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

Council members Mark Levine and Kallos introduced bill 1158-2018, which would require the DOHMH commissioner, in consultation with the DOB, to hold information sessions at least twice annually for building owners regarding maintenance, cleaning, and inspections of cooling towers, and to post the information online.

Council member Ydanis A. Rodriguez, who was frustrated when he was unable to obtain data on inspections or violations for towers in Washington Heights this summer, introduced bill 1164-2018. That law would require the DOHMH, in consultation with the DOB, to annually report to the City Council on the results of cooling tower inspections and make such results available online. “That information had to be collected, because of the open data system that we follow in our city,” Rodriguez said at that time to CBS2. “However, it is not easy to navigate and identify this information.”

The DOHMH has 70 inspectors conducting more than 5,000 cooling-tower inspections a year, armed with a list of 30 potential violations. They also can levy fines from $500 to $2,000 per violation. Rodriguez also wants to increase the penalty for buildings that do not have their cooling towers inspected annually. He wants the maximum fine raised to $5,000.

The final bill, bill 1166-2018, was introduced by council member Rafael Salamanca, Jr. It would require the DOHMH, in consultation with the DOB, to conduct a year-long assessment of all potential determinants of Legionnaires’ disease in the city.

Public hearings for the bills will be held in November.

Current requirements
State and City laws currently require owners of cooling towers to comply with the following regulations:

  • Register all existing cooling towers with New York State and DOB.
  • Register any new cooling tower with the state and DOB before beginning operations.
  • Securely affix a DOB cooling tower registration number to each tower.
  • Test each cooling tower every 90 days.
  • When replacing system parts, use corrosion-resistant, sunlight-blocking materials.
  • Perform cleaning at least two times per year.
  • Install and main drift eliminators as specified.
  • Perform daily, automatic chemical treatment of system water and continuously recirculate water (unless otherwise justified).
  • Perform routine manual water quality monitoring of temperature, pH, conductivity and biocide concentration unless this process is automated.
  • Perform microbial monitoring.
  • Perform weekly routine monitoring.
  • Perform inspection by a qualified person every 90 days tower is in use.
  • If the tower was shut down – without water treatment and recirculation – for more than five days, clean, drain and disinfect before reuse.
  • Certify annually that a tower was inspected, tested, cleaned, and disinfected as required.
  • Keep records of activities onsite for three years.
  • Notify the state and DOB if the tower is removed or taken out of use, and confirm it was drained and sanitized.
  • Develop and follow a Maintenance Program and Plan (MPP) in line with American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE 188-2015) Standard.

What is a cooling tower?
A cooling tower, which can be found in or on top of high-rise buildings or outside of commercial/industrial buildings, is designed to recirculate water to make the inside of a building cooler.

Cooling towers remove heat from a building or facility by spraying water down through the tower to exchange heat into the inside of a building, according to the CDC. The towers contain large amounts of water and are breeding grounds for Legionella bacteria if not properly disinfected and maintained.

Because water within the towers is heated via heat exchange, it becomes an ideal environment for heat-loving Legionella to grow.

When that bacteria is breathed in – in the form of microscopic droplets, generally mist or vapor – it can infect a person with Legionnaires’ disease. The bacteria are found primarily in human-made environments.

Legionnaires info

Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of lung infection. It is treatable with antibiotics, although if it is not diagnosed early, it can lead to severe complications. It is not contagious; that is, it cannot be passed from person to person.

Although Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and other parts of the body, including the heart. It also can lead to life-threatening complications, including respiratory failure, septic shock, and acute kidney failure.

According to the CDC, an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur yearly in the U.S. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.

About one in 10 people who get sick from Legionnaires will die.

Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126
Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires in Champaign County, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.


Six cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been confirmed in Illinois’ Champaign County since September 15, according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (C-UPHD).

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said investigators believe the county residents sickened may have participated in recent wedding activities and are looking at three sites  including First Christian Church in Champaign, as possible sources for Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires. First Christian was the only location named by the IDPH.

C-UPHD administrator Julie Pryde said, however, that only three of the six people sickened had contact with the church. The suspected source there is a decorative water fountain that has been turned off, Pryde said. Water features such as fountains can pose a threat if the water becomes infected with Legionella bacteria, because the water can become aerosolized and people breathe it in, Pryde said.

“Legionnaires’ disease is not known to spread person-to-person,” Dr. Jennifer Layden, chief medical officer for the IDPH, told The News-Gazette. “Most healthy people do not get Legionnaires’ disease after being exposed to Legionella bacteria. Individuals at increased risk of developing Legionnaire’s disease include those older than 50, or who have certain risk factors, such as being a current or former smoker, having a chronic disease or having a weakened immune system.”

Others susceptible to infection include:

  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • recipients of organ transplants
  • individuals on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one).

More trouble for Illinois
Legionnaires outbreaks and clusters have been making headlines in Illinois throughout the year, including:

  • Two guests of the Embassy Suites (600 N. State St.) in downtown Chicago were confirmed with Legionnaires in September.
  • McHenry County in northern Illinois investigated a Legionnaires’ disease cluster in which nine people were sickened between June 7 and July 1.
  • At the start of the year, it was learned that the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy (IVHQ) was battling a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak for the fourth consecutive year after a fourth resident was confirmed with the disease. There were six confirmed cases at IVHQ last year, including the death of one person. The 2017 outbreak increased the number who have died at the facility because of Legionnaires’ disease to 13 since 2015. There were more than 50 illnesses and 12 deaths during the 2015 outbreak.

More than 300 cases of Legionnaires’ disease are reported in Illinois each year, according to the IDPH. There were 332 cases confirmed in 2017, and 318 in 2016.

Legionnaires FAQs

What is Legionnaires’ disease?
Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of lung infection. It is treatable with antibiotics, although if it is not diagnosed early, it can lead to severe complications and even become deadly. It is not contagious; that is, it cannot be passed from person to person.

An estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur yearly in the U.S. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.

What are the symptoms?
Legionnaires’ disease symptoms are similar to those of other types of pneumonia, and they can even resemble those of influenza (flu). Those symptoms include:

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fever
  • muscle aches
  • headaches
  • gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Where do Legionella grow?
Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria grow best in warm water and are found primarily in human-made environments.

Legionella can grow in many parts of a building’s water system that is continually wet, and certain devices can spread contaminated water droplets. Some examples of devices where Legionella can grow and spread through aerosolization or aspiration (when water accidentally goes into the lungs while drinking) include:

  • cooling towers
  • hot- and cold-water storage tanks
  • water heaters
  • shower heads and hoses
  • electronic and manual faucets
  • ice machines
  • hot tubs
  • medical equipment (such as CPAP machines, hydrotherapy equipment, bronchoscopes, etc.)
  • faucet flow restrictors
  • water filters
  • pipes, valves, and fittings
  • aerators
  • centrally installed misters, atomizers, air washers, and humidifiers
  • non-stream aerosol-generating humidifiers
  • water hammer arrestors
  • expansion tanks
  • infrequently used equipment including eyewash stations
  • decorative fountains.

Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126
Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires in this lower Washington Heights outbreak, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.


The second Legionnaires’ disease outbreak of 2018 has now affected 20 residents of lower Washington Heights since the end of September, according to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) website.

Although the DOHMH website states 20 people have been sickened in the current outbreak, updated statistics have not been released. Of the 20 people infected, one victim has died.

The DOHMH issued a notice to residents of lower Washington Heights that read:

“The Health Department is investigating a cluster of Legionnaires’ disease in lower Washington Heights. Twenty people have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease since the end of September. The Health Department is investigating these cases and testing the water from all cooling tower systems in this section of Washington Heights. The risk to most people is low, but if you have flu-like symptoms, please see your medical provider right away.”

(Note: The DOHMH is classifying this event as a “cluster” because the cases are linked in time and space but no common source has been identified. If that happens, the event will be recategorized as an “outbreak.” This blog is classifying this as an “outbreak,” because the probability is high that a specific source will be found.)

Lower Washington Heights outbreak hits 20 Legionnaires cases
The year’s second Legionnaires’ disease outbreak has now affected 20 residents of lower Washington Heights since the end of September. One victim has died. (Upper Manhattan is the northernmost region of Manhattan, and Washington Heights is a neighborhood in the area.)

Low risk, but be mindful
Despite the continuing increase in numbers of cases, DOHMH officials said they believe the risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease in the area is “very low,” although they also said they expect more cases could be confirmed.

“The Health Department has identified a second cluster this season of Legionnaires’ disease in the lower Washington Heights area, and we are taking aggressive steps to ensure the safety of residents,” acting DOHMH commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said in a statement Oct. 5.

Nonetheless, if you live in upper Manhattan, or work or travel in the affected neighborhoods, it’s essential that you remain vigilant. A person infected by the bacterium might not have developed symptoms because of the disease’s long incubation period (up to two weeks).

Don’t ignore symptoms
Because symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are so similar to those of other forms of pneumonia (lung infection) or influenza (flu), many cases go unreported. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that only about 20 percent (5,000) of the estimated 25,000 yearly cases in the United States are reported, because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.

About 10 percent of people infected with Legionnaires’ disease will die from the infection.

Early symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease generally include:

  • severe headaches
  • fever (104 degrees or higher) and chills
  • muscle aches
  • suppressed appetite.

Symptoms, however, can worsen to include:

  • pleuritic chest pain (pain caused by inflamed lungs)
  • dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
  • cough, which can produce blood and mucus
  • gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting (about one-third of Legionnaires cases produce these symptoms)
  • mental agitation and confusion.

Summer outbreak
The investigation into the area’s first outbreak identified a cooling tower at Sugar Hill Project (898 St. Nicholas Avenue) as the cause for 27 illnesses – and one death – over the summer. Twenty-five of the 27 patients were hospitalized. A strain of Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, was common between six victims and a cooling tower at Sugar Hill Project.

Because of the current outbreak’s proximity to Sugar Hill Project, the DOHMH has ordered that building’s owners to re-clean and re-disinfect the cooling system. That process reportedly was finished Oct. 5.

That date was when the current outbreak first started making headlines. The DOHMH announced that eight Washington Heights residents had contracted Legionnaires’ disease over a five-day span. That initial group of victims ranges in age from younger than 40 to older than 80.

No information has been provided on the other 15 victims, including the victim who died.

Disease info

Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is treatable with antibiotics, although if it is not diagnosed early, it can lead to severe complications. It is not contagious; that is, it cannot be passed from person to person.

Although Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and other parts of the body, including the heart. It also can lead to life-threatening complications, including respiratory failure, septic shock, and acute kidney failure.

Bacteria sources
Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks and clusters have been linked to numerous sources of Legionella, including:

  • cooling towers of air conditioning systems
  • large plumbing systems
  • water systems (apartment complexes, hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels)
  • hot-water heaters and tanks
  • showers and faucets
  • swimming pools, hot tubs, and whirlpools
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • mist machines (for example, the produce section of a grocery store)
  • hand-held sprayers
  • decorative fountains.

High-risk categories
Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. Legionella grow best in warm water and are found primarily in human-made environments.

Anyone can become ill from Legionella, although the majority of healthy people exposed to the bacteria do not. Those most susceptible to infection include:

  • people 50 years old or older
  • people with chronic lung disease or COPD (bronchitis or emphysema)
  • smokers, either current or former
  • people with compromised immune systems
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • recipients of organ transplants
  • people on specific drug protocols (for instance, corticosteroids).

Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126
Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires’ disease in New York City, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.


Legionella bacteria was detected at the Borden Avenue Veterans Residence (BAVR) in Long Island City after a second Legionnaires’ disease case was confirmed within the last year, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

The announcement took place as part of the DOHMH’s public notification protocol for Legionnaires’ disease, which requires officials to inform tenants when there are two or more cases reported at a single building in a 12-month period.

Environmental testing confirmed the existence of elevated levels of Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, within the center’s water system. Health officials did not release the timing of when the testing was ordered and water samples collected.

“NYC has the most aggressive Legionnaire’s [sic] prevention & response system in the country,” tweeted Jaclyn Rothenberg, deputy press secretary in the NYC mayor’s office. “The Health Dept. & Department of Homeless Services are cleaning the water systems in this building. We’ve notified residents & will take any measure necessary to keep them safe & healthy,”

Both of the infected patients have recovered, according to health officials, although no information was released on:

  • the timing of the illnesses;
  • whether hospitalization was required;
  • the genders or ages of the individuals;
  • and whether they were residents, employees, or volunteers at the shelter.

“There are no new cases of Legionnaires’ disease, and the risk to clients remains very low,” the DOHMH wrote in a statement. “Following our protocol, we have notified tenants and are working with DSS [New York City Department of Social Services] on short- and long-term remediation plans.”

The BAVR is funded by the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and is located at 21-10 Borden Ave. in Queens. The facility opened in 1987 and provides medical and psychiatric services and supportive housing assistance to 243 homeless veterans (216 male, 27 female). ICL works closely with DHS and the Veteran’s Administration to provide coordinated and comprehensive services to homeless veterans residing at BAVR.

Residents are still able to use and drink water, but those at higher risk of getting Legionnaires’ disease are advised to take additional precautions, including using modified showers provided by building management, and starting with cold water when heating water for drinking or cooking.

Legionnaires FAQs

What is Legionnaires’ disease?
Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of lung infection. It is treatable with antibiotics, although if it is not diagnosed early, it can lead to severe complications and even become deadly. It is not contagious; that is, it cannot be passed from person to person.

An estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur yearly in the U.S. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.

What are the symptoms?
Despite the health department’s assurances, if you live, work or volunteer at the BAVR and are feeling flu-like symptoms, you should see your health-care provider out of an abundance of caution.

Legionnaires’ disease symptoms are similar to those of other types of pneumonia, and they can even resemble those of influenza (flu). Those symptoms include:

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fever
  • muscle aches
  • headaches
  • gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Who is at highest risk?
Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick, although anyone can become ill from the bacteria. Those most susceptible to infection include:

  • people 50 years of age or older
  • smokers, both current and former
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with compromised immune systems
  • recipients of organ transplants
  • individuals who are on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one).

Where does Legionella grow?
Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria grow best in warm water and are found primarily in human-made environments.

Legionella can grow in many parts of a building’s water system that is continually wet, and certain devices can spread contaminated water droplets. Some examples of devices where Legionella can grow and spread through aerosolization or aspiration (when water accidentally goes into the lungs while drinking) include:

  • cooling towers
  • hot- and cold-water storage tanks
  • water heaters
  • shower heads and hoses
  • electronic and manual faucets
  • ice machines
  • hot tubs
  • medical equipment (such as CPAP machines, hydrotherapy equipment, bronchoscopes, etc.)
  • faucet flow restrictors
  • water filters
  • pipes, valves, and fittings
  • aerators
  • centrally installed misters, atomizers, air washers, and humidifiers
  • non-stream aerosol-generating humidifiers
  • water hammer arrestors
  • expansion tanks
  • infrequently used equipment including eyewash stations
  • decorative fountains.

Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126
Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires in this second upper Manhattan outbreak, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.


New York City health officials announced Wednesday that the second outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease to hit upper Manhattan has resulted in the death of one victim. In addition, the case count has increased to 16.

The victim has yet to be identified. Of the other 15 cases, seven victims remain hospitalized, seven have been discharged, and one was treated as an outpatient.

The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) announced last Friday that eight residents of the Washington Heights neighborhood had been infected during a five-day span. Those first eight victims ranged in age from younger than 40 to older than 80. The age breakdown has not been updated since that time.

While the DOHMH believes the risk of contracting the disease remains “very low,” officials said they expect more cases could be confirmed.

Acting DOHMH commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot released a statement last Friday that read: “The Health Department has identified a second cluster this season of Legionnaires’ disease in the lower Washington Heights area, and we are taking aggressive steps to ensure the safety of residents.”

The DOHMH said it had sampled 20 cooling towers – taking a closer look at 11 – in an attempt to pinpoint the source. WPIX-11 News was told that one cooling tower was not registered with the city, so it was not being inspected regularly.

Owners of the 11 towers that are being looked at more closely were ordered to remediate their cooling towers “based on preliminary results and out of an abundance of caution,” Barbot said.

First outbreak
The investigation into the area’s first outbreak pinpointed a cooling tower at the Sugar Hill Project as the cause for 27 illnesses – and one death – that affected residents of Washington Heights and Hamilton Heights. A strain of Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, was common between six patients and the Sugar Hill Project cooling tower.

Because of the proximity of Sugar Hill Project to the most recent outbreak, the DOHMH has ordered the building’s owners to re-clean and re-disinfect the building’s cooling system. That process was completed Oct. 5.

(Note: The DOHMH classifies the current collection of illnesses as a “cluster” because the cases are linked in time and space, but no common source for the illnesses has been located. If a common source is found, officials will recategorize this incident as an “outbreak.” This blog is classifying this as an outbreak.)

Warning issued
In his Friday statement to the public, Barbot warned that “although the risk is very low, we urge residents and people who work in the area to take precautions.”

The statement went on to say: “Legionnaires’ disease is not contagious, and (it) can be treated with common antibiotics if caught early. Anyone with flu-like symptoms – such as cough, fever or difficulty breathing – should seek medical attention immediately.”

If you live, work or travel through the area, you need to be vigilant. An infected person might not have developed symptoms because the disease’s incubation period can be up to two weeks.

Watch for symptoms
Because symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are so similar to those of other forms of pneumonia (lung infection) or influenza (flu), many cases go unreported. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that only about 20 percent (5,000) of the estimated 25,000 yearly cases in the United States are reported.

About 10 percent of people infected with Legionnaires’ disease will die from the infection.

Early symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease generally include:

  • severe headaches
  • fever (104 degrees or higher) and chills
  • muscle aches
  • suppressed appetite.

Symptoms, however, can worsen to include:

  • pleuritic chest pain (pain caused by inflamed lungs)
  • dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
  • cough, which can produce blood and mucus
  • gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting (about one-third of Legionnaires cases produce these symptoms)
  • mental agitation and confusion.

More on Legionnaires

Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks and clusters have been linked to numerous sources of Legionella, including:

  • cooling towers of air conditioning systems
  • large plumbing systems
  • water systems (apartment complexes, hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels)
  • hot-water heaters and tanks
  • showers and faucets
  • swimming pools, hot tubs, and whirlpools
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • mist machines (for example, the produce section of a grocery store)
  • hand-held sprayers
  • decorative fountains.

High-risk categories
Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. Legionella grow best in warm water and are found primarily in human-made environments.

Anyone can become ill from Legionella, although the majority of healthy people exposed to the bacteria do not. Those most susceptible to infection include:

  • people 50 years old or older
  • people with a chronic lung disease or COPD (bronchitis or emphysema)
  • smokers, either current or former
  • people with compromised immune systems
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • recipients of organ transplants
  • people on specific drug protocols (for instance, corticosteroids).

Another record year?
According to the CDC, 2017 was a record year for Legionnaires’ disease cases in the state of New York with 1,009 cases. With more than 128 cases reported across the state within the past three weeks, the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease is projecting the state record to be broken before the end of the year. As of the end of September, 875 cases have been reported, and 1,180 are projected by year’s end.

An average of 200 to 500 Legionnaires’ disease cases are reported in New York City every year. In 2017, the five boroughs reported 441 Legionnaires’ disease cases, a 64 percent increase from the 268 reported in 2016, according to the CDC.

The largest outbreak in New York City history occurred in 2015. Contaminated cooling towers were blamed for producing Legionnaires’ disease that killed 12 people and sickened more than 120 others in the south Bronx.

Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126
Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires at The Osthoff Resort, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.


Four people contracted Legionnaires’ disease after staying at The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) said.

The DHS said the first case was reported in March and the other three in August. No information was released on the four victims.

A memo from Osthoff general manager Lola Roeh informed resort owners of the illnesses in early September, shortly after it was learned that two of 72 locations at the resort – a men’s restroom near an indoor pool and a cooling tower – tested positive for elevated levels of Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease. Water samples were collected by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; the Division of Public Health in the DHS; and the Sheboygan County Health and Human Services Department.

Roeh said the resort disinfected both areas within two hours of learning of the positive tests. Results of the latest testing, received last week, were negative for Legionella.

“The Osthoff has been in full cooperation with health authorities in their investigation,” Roeh wrote in an email to the Sheboygan Press. “While The Osthoff has not been determined as the source, there has been rigorous testing at The Osthoff as a part of the systematic process of this type of investigation.”

The Sheboygan County Health Department notified the resort of the cases, prompting the initial testing.

According to Anna Kocharian, an epidemiologist with the Bureau of Communicable Disease of the DHS, the five-year average of confirmed Legionnaires cases in Wisconsin is 135, and the DHS conducts about five Legionella public health investigations every year.

Who is most at risk?
“Most healthy people who are exposed to Legionella do not get Legionnaires’ disease (approximately less than 5 percent of people exposed become sick),” Kocharian informed the Sheboygan Press in an email. “… people with increased risk of developing illness are aged 50 years or older, are current or past smokers, have chronic lung disease or a weakened immune system.”

Others most susceptible to contracting Legionnaires’ disease after inhaling Legionella include:

  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • recipients of organ transplants
  • individuals on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one).

Kocharian recommends that anyone at an increased risk of Legionnaire’s disease contact their health-care provider as soon as they start to experience symptoms.

What are the symptoms?
If you have stayed or work at or travel in the vicinity of The Osthoff Resort and are feeling pneumonia- or flu-like symptoms, you should see your health-care provider out of an abundance of caution. Those symptoms include:

  • chills
  • fever (potentially 104 degrees or higher)
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches.

After the first few days, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • chest pain when breathing (called pleuritic chest pain, due to inflamed lungs)
  • confusion and agitation
  • a cough, which may bring up mucus and blood
  • diarrhea (about one-third of all cases result in gastrointestinal problems)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • shortness of breath.

More on Legionnaires

Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of lung infection. It is treatable with antibiotics, although if it is not diagnosed early, it can lead to severe complications. It is not contagious; that is, it cannot be passed from person to person.

Although Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and other parts of the body, including the heart. It also can lead to life-threatening complications, including respiratory failure, septic shock, and acute kidney failure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur yearly in the U.S. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.

About one in 10 people who get sick from Legionnaires will die.

(Note: There is a mild form of Legionnaires’ disease called Pontiac fever that produces similar symptoms, including fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches. Pontiac fever, however, doesn’t infect the lungs.)

Where do the bacteria live?
Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments.

Outbreaks have been linked to numerous sources, such as:

  • water systems, such as those used in apartment complexes, hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
  • the cooling towers of air conditioning systems
  • large plumbing systems
  • hot-water tanks and heaters
  • showers and faucets
  • swimming pools
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • mist machines and hand-held sprayers
  • decorative fountains.

People also can contract Legionnaires’ disease by the aspiration of contaminated drinking water – that is, choking or coughing while drinking can cause water to go down the wrong pipe into the lungs. It’s also possible to contract Legionnaires’ disease from home plumbing systems, although the vast majority of outbreaks have occurred in large buildings because complex systems allow the bacteria to grow and spread more easily.

Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126
Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires’ disease in Hampton, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.


The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) notified The Sands Resort at Hampton Beach that additional environmental testing is required before it will be allowed to remove the state’s “public health notice” from the lobby.

The hot tub at The Sands, which tested positive for Legionella bacteria, is considered one of the prime suspects in a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak this summer in which 18 people were infected, 16 of them were hospitalized, and one of them died.

The individuals took ill in an area of Hampton identified as Ashworth Avenue between Island Path and M Street between June 10 and August 26. Thirteen of the 18 people sickened were guests at The Sands.

Legionella is the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, the sometimes-deadly, pneumonia-like, respiratory illness.

Not in compliance
The Sands co-owner Tom Saab held a press conference last week stating that test results showed The Sands’ water supply is “completely clear” of Legionella. He also said “there’s no reason” for the state to require the signage to remain posted.

Saab said Resource EHS America was hired to clean the water at the resort, and 43 test results came back negative for Legionella.

The DHHS, however, sent Saab a letter stating those test samples did not meet its testing criteria. According to the letter, the following requirements were not met:

  • The samples came in portions of water smaller than the state’s required one liter;
  • The samples were collected too soon after the water was cleaned (the state requires samples to be taken at least 24 hours after water is cleaned, and some samples were taken sooner than that).

Dr. John Murphy of Resource EHS America collected the samples, and state officials said Murphy told them he did not plan on conducting additional testing, “contrary to best practice recommended by the CDC and other organizations.” Saab contends that flushing the hot-water system eliminated biofilm.

The state’s letter stated that “Legionella may not grow from water samples collected immediately after remediation, but can grow in the weeks following a cleanup due to the potential for biofilms to form.” The letter also said the hotel is “required to provide a written plan for ongoing Legionella testing, with repeat samples taken at regular intervals, as well as a written water management plan that The Sands will implement.”

Two suspects: One positive, one negative
The hot tubs at The Sands and the Harris Sea Ranch Motel were shut down by order of the DHHS in late August. Both facilities were suspected to be possible sources for the outbreak.

Test results at The Sands returned elevated levels of Legionella in the hot tub, water heater, outdoor shower hose, as well as the sinks and shower heads in three guest rooms. Water samples taken from The Sands hot tub were found to be growing the same strain of Legionella that was isolated from one of the patients diagnosed with Legionnaires, indicating that the hot tub was a source, the DHHS said.

Environmental and water testing results from the Harris Sea Ranch were negative for Legionella, but officials said those results did not rule out the facility as a potential source. Very high levels of chlorination found in the hot tub at the time of sampling may have resulted in the absence of Legionella from the samples.

After the hot tubs were shut down, it was learned by WMUR News 9 that neither The Sands nor the Harris Sea Ranch had registered their hot tubs with the state. Registration is required by officials to ensure that public pools and spas comply with health and safety standards.

Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126
Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires’ disease in Washington Heights, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.


For the second time this year, Washington Heights is battling Legionnaires’ disease: The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) announced Friday that eight residents of the neighborhood had been infected within a five-day span.

All eight – who range in age from younger than 40 to older than 80 – needed to be hospitalized. Only one patient has been discharged.

In the neighborhood’s first incident, 27 people were sickened in an outbreak over the summer. One victim died.

“The Health Department has identified a second cluster this season of Legionnaires’ disease in the lower Washington Heights area, and we are taking aggressive steps to ensure the safety of residents,” acting DOHMH commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot was quoted in a press release.

The investigation into the summer outbreak identified a cooling tower at the Sugar Hill Project in Harlem as the cause for the illnesses that infected residents of Washington Heights and Hamilton Heights. Analysis of human and cooling-tower specimens matched Legionella strains from the Sugar Hill cooling tower and six patients from the outbreak, which first made headlines July 11.

The DOHMH has ordered the Sugar Hill Project to once again clean and disinfect its cooling systems, because of its proximity to the latest outbreak. The Sugar Hill Project is located at 898 St. Nicholas Avenue and West 155th Street.

According to the DOHMH’s statement, the department has sampled 20 cooling towers within a mile radius to identify the cause for the latest cluster. Owners of buildings with cooling towers that test positive for Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, will be ordered to increase their efforts to eliminate it.

The DOHMH will lead a community meeting on the latest incident at 6 p.m. Monday at the Jackie Robinson Recreation Center at 85 Bradhurst Avenue to answer questions and provide updates on the situation.

Watch for symptoms
“Although the risk is very low, we urge residents and people who work in the area to take precautions,” Barbot said in the statement. “Legionnaires’ disease is not contagious and can be treated with common antibiotics if caught early. Anyone with flu-like symptoms such as cough, fever or difficulty breathing should seek medical attention immediately.”

If you live, work or travel through the area, please be vigilant because someone who is infected might not yet be presenting symptoms because of the disease’s two-week incubation period. If you are feeling flu-like symptoms, it’s recommended you see your health-care provider immediately out of an abundance of caution.

Similar to other pneumonias
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease look like other forms of pneumonia (lung infection) or even the flu, which is why so many cases go unreported every year. Early symptoms can include the following:

  • chills
  • fever (potentially 104 degrees or higher)
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches.

After the first few days of the disease presenting, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • chest pain when breathing (called pleuritic chest pain, due to inflamed lungs)
  • confusion and agitation
  • a cough, which can bring up mucus and blood
  • diarrhea, nausea and vomiting (about one-third of all cases result in gastrointestinal problems)
  • shortness of breath.

There is also a mild form of Legionnaires’ disease called Pontiac fever, which can produce similar symptoms that include fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches. Pontiac fever doesn’t infect the lungs, however, and symptoms usually clear within two to five days.

More on Legionnaires

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur yearly in the U.S. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.

One in 10 patients infected with Legionnaires will die from the disease.

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments.

Where do Legionella live?
Legionnaires’ disease clusters and outbreaks have been linked to numerous sources, such as:

  • cooling towers of air conditioning systems
  • large plumbing systems
  • water systems, such as those used in hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
  • hot-water tanks and heaters
  • showers and faucets
  • swimming pools
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • mist machines and hand-held sprayers
  • decorative fountains.

High-risk categories
Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. However, anyone can become ill from the bacteria.

Those most susceptible to infection include:

  • people 50 years of age or older
  • smokers, both current and former
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with compromised immune systems
  • recipients of organ transplants
  • individuals who are on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one).

Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126
Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires’ disease in Pinellas County, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.


The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County (DOH-Pinellas) is investigating two Legionnaires’ disease cases in the same undisclosed apartment community, according to health officials.

Per a Florida statute, the department does not disclose locations of active investigations. Also, no information was provided on the genders, ages or current health conditions of the two people sickened.

Pinellas County is part of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area. Visit www.PinellasHealth.com or call 727-824-6900 for information about DOH-Pinellas.

Do you have these symptoms?
Since the exact area of the outbreak is unknown, if you live or work in, or travel through, Pinellas County and are feeling flu-like symptoms, you should see your health-care provider out of an abundance of caution.

Legionnaires’ disease symptoms are similar to those of other types of pneumonia, and they can even resemble those of influenza (flu). Those symptoms include:

  • chills
  • fever (potentially 104 degrees or higher)
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches.

After the first few days of the disease presenting, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • chest pain when breathing (called pleuritic chest pain, due to inflamed lungs)
  • confusion and agitation
  • a cough, which may bring up mucus and blood
  • diarrhea (about one-third of all cases result in gastrointestinal problems)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • shortness of breath.

Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of lung infection and treatable with antibiotics. If not diagnosed early, however, the condition can lead to severe complications and even become deadly. It is not contagious; that is, it cannot be passed from person to person.

Although Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and other parts of the body, including the heart. It can also lead to a number of life-threatening complications, including respiratory failure, septic shock, and acute kidney failure.

A mild form of Legionnaires’ disease — known as Pontiac fever — may produce signs and symptoms including a fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches. Pontiac fever doesn’t infect your lungs, and symptoms usually manifest within two to five days.

More Legionnaires info

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur yearly in the U.S. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor.

About one in 10 people who gets sick from Legionnaires will die

Legionella sources
The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments. Outbreaks have been linked to numerous sources, such as:

  • water systems, such as those used in apartment complexes, hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
  • the cooling towers of air conditioning systems
  • large plumbing systems
  • hot-water tanks and heaters
  • showers and faucets
  • swimming pools
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • mist machines and hand-held sprayers
  • decorative fountains.

People also can contract Legionnaires’ disease by the aspiration of contaminated drinking water – that is, choking or coughing while drinking can cause water to go down the wrong pipe into the lungs. It’s also possible to contract Legionnaires’ disease from home plumbing systems, although the vast majority of outbreaks have occurred in large buildings because complex systems allow the bacteria to grow and spread more easily.

High-risk categories
Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. However, anyone can become ill from the bacteria, and those most susceptible to infection include:

  • people 50 years of age or older
  • smokers, both current and former
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with compromised immune systems
  • recipients of organ transplants
  • individuals who are on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one).

Warmer weather to blame?
Legionnaires’ disease is “an emerging disease in the sense that the number of recorded cases of Legionnaires in the United States continues to increase,” said Laura Cooley of the CDC’s Respiratory Diseases Branch.

In a 2017 interview, Cooley said the increase is due to a rise in the susceptibility of the population, with more and more people on immunosuppressive medications. There also could be more Legionella in the environment, with warmer temperatures creating the right conditions for bacterial growth.

Seventeen of the 18 warmest years since modern record-keeping began have occurred since 2001, according to analyses by both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The four warmest years on record have occurred since 2014, with 2017 being the warmest non-El Niño year recorded.

This year is shaping up to be the fourth-hottest year on record. The only years hotter were the three previous ones.

Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126
Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires’ disease in West Orange, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.


Legionella continues to plague the city of West Orange, NJ, after test results revealed elevated levels in nine of the city’s 12 schools.

The bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease also was found in the district’s administrative building.

Since there have been no confirmed cases of the disease connected to any school facilities, West Orange Public School District superintendent Jeffrey Rutzky said: “There is no reason to close the schools.”

The schools that returned positive tests were:

  • Edison Middle School
  • Gregory Elementary School
  • Hazel Elementary School
  • Mt. Pleasant Elementary School
  • Redwood Elementary School
  • Roosevelt Middle School
  • St. Cloud Elementary School
  • Washington Elementary School
  • West Orange High School.

The three schools that were Legionella-free were Betty Maddalena Early Learning Center, Kelly Elementary School, and Liberty Middle School.

“We want to make sure everybody is safe; we want to make sure the water is safe,” Rutzky told PIX11 News. “We’re doing filters, changing out piping, and then the chlorination process.”

Timeline of a city infected
The city has been battling Legionella issues since late July after a municipal worker was sickened with Legionnaires’ disease and Legionella was found in the city’s Town Hall, one of the two buildings in which the employee worked.

Testing was ordered in early August at more than a dozen municipal buildings, and the bacteria was found in six of the city’s properties: Fire Headquarters, Firehouse No. 2, Firehouse No. 4, and Police Headquarters tested positive for the bacteria, as did field houses at Lafayette Park and O’Connor Park.

In mid-August, Legionella was discovered in the water at Redwood Elementary School after a parent whose child was attending summer camp there reported that her child was sick with what the doctor said could be Legionnaires’ disease. The child eventually was determined not to have the disease, according to Rutzky.

Officials began remediation efforts at Redwood Elementary after Aug. 14 test results showed four of 15 samples had elevated levels of Legionella.

Remediation and disinfection
On Aug. 30, New Jersey American Water tested sinks and water fountains at Redwood Elementary for coliform bacteria. The results were satisfactory by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) standards, according to a statement released by Rutzky. Even though Redwood’s samples met the standard, OMEGA Environmental Services was hired to perform a disinfection procedure using a hyper-chlorinated solution on Sept. 10-11.

The disinfection procedure included the following steps:

  • Chlorine is pumped into the hot water heater and remains in the hot water tank for four hours to eliminate any bacteria.
  • Chlorine is then pumped through the hot water piping system and stays in the system for 14 hours to eliminate any bacteria.
  • Chlorinated water is drained from the hot water tank and hot water piping system, and flushed with fresh water.
  • Water samples are drawn and retested after the hyper-chlorination procedure to verify that the water again meets SDWA standards.

Remediation efforts at Redwood Elementary included:

  • Installing filters on the water sources that tested positive.
  • Replacing faucets in the affected areas.
  • Proactively and temporarily covering all water fountains despite the fact that the Legionella only presents a risk to people exposed to airborne droplets and not from drinking affected water.
  • Removing, cleaning and sanitizing all aerators (screens) in all rooms.
  • Where possible, changes in the plumbing systems will be done to minimize the potential for future bacterial growth.

The same disinfection procedures and remediation steps will be performed at all schools and district facilities that showed positive first tests performed by Omega Environmental and retesting performed by Garden State Environmental:

  • Mt. Pleasant and St. Cloud have had the chlorination and retesting processes completed.
  • Hazel has had the chlorination process completed, and retesting will be performed this week.
  • Gregory, Washington and the Administration Building will have the chlorination process completed on Oct. 5 and 6, Oct. 12 and 13 or Oct. 19 and 20. Retesting will be done approximately four days after the chlorination process.
  • Edison and Roosevelt will have the chlorination process completed on Oct. 26 or 27 or Nov. 2 and 3. Retesting will be done approximately four days after the chlorination process.
  • West Orange High School will be completed on Nov. 8 to 11. Retesting will be done approximately four days after the chlorination process.

“We will continue to be diligent in our approach to remediate the water sources that tested positive for Legionella bacteria and proactive in completing the process as quickly as possible,” Rutzky wrote in a statement.

FAQs: Legionnaires’ disease

What is Legionnaires’ disease?
Legionnaires’ disease – also known as legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of pneumonia (lung infection). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 Americans yearly develop pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila). Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms.

Additionally, 10 percent of those who become infected with Legionnaires’ disease will die from the infection.

Legionella are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments.

What are the symptoms?
Legionnaires’ disease is similar to other types of pneumonia, and symptoms can even resemble those of flu, which is why the disease often goes under-reported. Those symptoms include:

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fever
  • muscle aches
  • headaches
  • gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Where do Legionella live?
Outbreaks have been linked to a number of sources, such as:

  • water systems, like those used in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
  • large plumbing systems
  • faucets and showers
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • hot-water tanks and heaters
  • swimming pools
  • decorative fountains
  • mist machines, like those used in the produce sections of grocery stores
  • hand-held sprayers
  • cooling towers of air conditioning systems.

Who is most at risk?
Anyone can become ill from Legionella, but those most susceptible to infection include:

  • people 50 or older
  • smokers, current and former
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with compromised immune systems
  • recipients of organ transplants
  • individuals who are on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one).