Health officials announced that Legionella bacteria was detected in a New York City hospital in the Bronx, the second borough in the city dealing with the dangerous bacterium that causes Legionnaires’ disease. Currently, upper Manhattan is dealing with a Legionnaires’ cluster that has sickened 27 with one death.
Routine testing of the potable water supply returned low, but elevated levels of the bacteria at the Jacobi Medical Center, according to NYC Health + Hospitals, which is the largest public health care system in the United States. Jacobi is approximately 7 miles from the Washington Heights area affected by the growing disease cluster.
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia (lung infection), which is treatable with antibiotics when diagnosed early. It is not contagious and passed from person to person.
There have been no reports of any Legionnaires’ illnesses at the hospital, and NYC Health + Hospitals said the risk to patients, employees or visitors to the hospital on Pelham Parkway South in Morris Park is very low and there is zero risk to the surrounding community.
“Per guidance from the New York State Department of Health, which regulates hospitals, we have taken steps to prevent any impact on our patients, staff, or visitors,” NYC Health + Hospitals wrote in a statement. “Safety is always our highest priority,”
Implementation of water restrictions at the 450-bed hospital includes supplying bottled water for patients, employees and visitors, and the use of bath wipes by patients for daily hygiene until new water filters are installed in the showers.
The detection of the bacteria at Jacobi comes weeks after the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported a cluster of Legionnaires’ disease illnesses affecting Manhattan’s southern Washington Heights and northern Hamilton Heights neighborhoods.
The disease cluster is not connected in any way to the discovery of the Legionella at Jacobi.
Bronx outbreak killed 12 in 2015
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.
Every year, between 200 and 500 people are diagnosed with the disease in New York, according to city health officials.
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. 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.
What are the symptoms?
Legionnaires’ disease is similar to other types of pneumonia, and its symptoms can resemble those of flu, such as:
- difficulty breathing
- muscle aches
- gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.