New York’s largest recorded outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease has killed seven people and infected 86 others as the city moved Tuesday to draw up new legislation to halt future outbreaks.
It is the largest appearance of the disease in New York City that health officials are aware of, said Health Commissioner Mary Bassett, speaking alongside Mayor Bill de Blasio and other top officials.
Sixty-four people have been hospitalized with the illness, a form of pneumonia that broke out July 10 in the Bronx, one of the poorest areas in the city. Of those, 28 were treated and discharged.
The seven people who died were all older adults with underlying medical problems. Those with chronic lung diseases, as well as AIDS and HIV patients, are among those most at risk.
The disease is caused when water contaminated with the legionella bacteria is inhaled into the lungs. There have been 2,400 cases nationwide this year.
The bacteria were discovered last week at a Bronx hotel and in equipment at a hospital.
Officials have traced the likely cause of the outbreak to cooling towers that can release mist. They said 17 towers in the area had been tested, with five testing positive for legionella bacteria. All five of the towers have been decontaminated.
De Blasio said new legislation requiring inspections, sanctions and other regulations for property owners whose buildings test positive for the disease would be presented this week to try to curb future outbreaks.
New York’s drinking water supply, fountains, shower heads and pools are safe and unaffected, authorities said.
“It is not a contagious disease. It cannot be passed from person to person,” de Blasio said.
The mayor said the disease was a “persistent health problem” across the United States for years and has been “slowly and steadily growing all over the country.”
The disease takes its name from its first outbreak, in 1976, at a Philadelphia hotel where a meeting of the American Legion, a veterans organization, was taking place.