The death toll from the latest outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in New York City has risen to 12, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a briefing Monday. The total number of people suffering from the disease in the South Bronx, where the current outbreak began, has reached 114 since July 10, NBC New Yorkreported Monday.
Officials said that the latest victims of Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia, were middle-aged people with underlying health issues. De Blasio said that the cases added to Monday's total were not new ones but those that were not reported before, adding that it was a "very promising sign" that no new cases were reported since Aug. 3. State and city health officials said, according to the Associated Press, that 18 buildings have so far tested positive for the Legionella bacteria, which causes the disease.
"We are confident the Legionnaires' outbreak in the South Bronx has been contained, and are working with our partners in the City Council to protect the entire city in the long-term through stringent new regulations for building owners," de Blasio said, according to ABC News, adding: "New York is the first major city in the nation to propose new registration, inspection, and enforcement standards for the cooling towers which harbor Legionnaires' bacteria."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, according to ABC News, that over 500 building sites in the Bronx were canvassed in two days to identify cooling towers that could be a potential source of Legionella, which breeds in warm water in places like hot tubs, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems and decorative fountains. Samples from cooling sites will be taken by teams led by the New York State Office of Emergency Management and the Office of Fire Prevention and Control to determine the sites that may be containing the bacteria.
"We are taking every precaution to prevent the spread of Legionnaires' Disease," Cuomo said, according to ABC News, adding: "This outbreak has been a source of great concern for people throughout the Bronx and the rest of New York City, but residents should know that we are doing everything necessary to protect the public health."
The bacteria spreads through mist or vapor and symptoms for the diseaseinclude cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches and headaches. The symptoms begin showing within two to 14 days of exposure and can be treated with antibiotics.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (R) arrives to speak to the media during a news conference to introduce legislation intended to reduce the risk of Legionnaire's disease in New York on Aug. 2015.
Legionnaires' disease usually develops two to 10 days after exposure to legionella bacteria. It frequently begins with the following signs and symptoms:
- Muscle pain
- Fever that may be 104 F (40 C) or higher
By the second or third day, you'll develop other signs and symptoms that may include:
- Cough, which may bring up mucus and sometimes blood
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- Confusion or other mental changes
Although Legionnaires' disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and in other parts of the body, including the heart.
A mild form of Legionnaires' disease — known as Pontiac fever — may produce signs and symptoms including fever, chills, headache and muscle aches. Pontiac fever doesn't infect your lungs, and symptoms usually clear within two to five days.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you think you've been exposed to legionella bacteria. Diagnosing and treating Legionnaires' disease as soon as possible can help shorten the recovery period and prevent serious complications. For people at high risk, prompt treatment is critical.
The bacterium Legionella pneumophila is responsible for most cases of Legionnaires' disease. Outdoors, legionella bacteria survive in soil and water, but rarely cause infections. Indoors, though, legionella bacteria can multiply in all kinds of water systems — hot tubs, air conditioners and mist sprayers in grocery store produce departments.
Although it's possible to contract Legionnaires' disease from home plumbing systems, most outbreaks have occurred in large buildings, perhaps because complex systems allow the bacteria to grow and spread more easily.
How the infection spreads
Most people become infected when they inhale microscopic water droplets containing legionella bacteria. This might be the spray from a shower, faucet or whirlpool, or water dispersed through the ventilation system in a large building. Outbreaks have been linked to a range of sources, including:
- Hot tubs and whirlpools on cruise ships
- Cooling towers in air conditioning systems
- Decorative fountains
- Swimming pools
- Physical therapy equipment
- Water systems in hotels, hospitals and nursing homes
Although legionella bacteria primarily spread through aerosolized water droplets, the infection can be transmitted in other ways, including:
-Aspiration. This occurs when liquids accidentally enter your lungs, usually because you cough or choke while drinking. If you aspirate water containing legionella bacteria, you may develop Legionnaires' disease.
-Soil. A few people have contracted Legionnaires' disease after working in the garden or using contaminated potting soil.
Not everyone exposed to legionella bacteria becomes sick. You're more likely to develop the infection if you:
- Smoke. Smoking damages the lungs, making you more susceptible to all types of lung infections.
- Have a weakened immune system as a result of HIV/AIDS or certain medications, especially corticosteroids and drugs taken to prevent organ rejection after a transplant.
- Have a chronic lung disease such as emphysema or another serious condition such as diabetes, kidney disease or cancer.
- Are 50 years of age or older.
Legionnaires' disease is a sporadic and local problem in hospitals and nursing homes, where germs may spread easily and people are vulnerable to infection.
By, News Prepper