The largest outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease in New York City took the life of a tenth victim, and health officials on Thursday ordered cooling towers on buildings throughout the city tested for the bacteria that causes the illness.
Since its appearance late last month in the South Bronx, 100 people have been diagnosed with the disease, a form of pneumonia caused by inhaling mist contaminated with the Legionella bacteria.
The disease is easily diagnosed and can be treated with antibiotics, but poses a serious risk to anyone with an underlying medical condition. Officials said all 10 people who died had other complicating conditions.
The outbreak has been traced to cooling towers, which release mist. Five towers in the South Bronx tested positive for the bacteria and have since been decontaminated.
Mayor Bill de Blasio stressed Thursday that the mandated tests are a precautionary measure and the city is “confident that we have already disinfected the source of this outbreak.”
The Health Department ordered that within the next 14 days, all buildings with cooling towers that haven’t been tested in the last 30 days be tested and any towers found contaminated be disinfected. Failure to comply is a misdemeanor.
The illness gets its name from a 1976 outbreak at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia in which 34 people died.