Update, Nov. 3
One of the two residents sickened with Legionnaires’ disease at Sky View Rehabilitation & Health Care in Croton-on-Hudson, NY, has died, authorities announced Thursday. Carmella Scafuri, 93, passed away Tuesday. The other resident is still receiving care.

Original post, Oct. 31
Legionnaires’ disease has been confirmed in two residents of Sky View Rehabilitation & Health Care in Croton-on-Hudson, a village in Westchester County, NY, according to news reports.

Both residents were initially diagnosed with pneumonia before additional testing indicated their illnesses to be the more serious respiratory disease, Legionnaires’ disease. The first resident was diagnosed Oct. 18, the second Oct. 27.

A Sky View official said the pair are receiving “appropriate medical care.”

Earlier this summer, a water sample taken at the facility was positive for Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease. The facility is required to test the water system every quarter to comply with state health regulations. An aggressive flushing program was implemented, according to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and subsequent water tests in August and September were clear of Legionella.

“We are extremely concerned by these cases,” said Vincent A. Maniscalco, the center’s administrator. “We are taking all necessary steps to protect our residents, staff, and visitors.”

As a precaution, the facility is screening all residents for respiratory symptoms, and a water safety consultant has been retained to remediate the facility and eliminate the spread of the disease.

The New York State Health Department is in charge of the investigation, along with the assistance of the Westchester County Department of Health. The investigation will focus on the water system and any equipment where water collects, pools, sprays or mists, such as drinking fountains, showers, tubs or hoses.

The rehab center does not have cooling towers, which have been responsible for numerous outbreaks in New York in the last few years. An outbreak of 14 Legionnaires’ cases in downtown Flushing in early October is believed to have been caused by infected cooling towers.

A disease on the rise in the U.S.

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection and is “an emerging disease in the sense that the number of recorded cases of Legionnaires’ in the United States continues to increase,” according to Laura Cooley, MD, MPH from the Respiratory Diseases Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Cooley said she believes the increase is due to an increase in the susceptibility of the population, with more and more people on immunosuppressive medications. In addition there could be more Legionella in the environment, with warmer temperatures creating the right conditions for bacterial growth.

About 25,000 cases per year

An estimated 25,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease occur in the United States yearly. However, only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms.

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which thrive in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments, such as:

  • cooling towers
  • air-conditioning systems
  • hot tubs
  • spas.