Case Of Legionnaires’ Disease In The Harlem Sparks Alerts

June 11, 2017

A New York Police Department officer has contracted Legionnaires’ disease leading to a spate of investigations by the health officials as to its source and potential capacity for spread. The officer however is at present on their way to recovery at a hospital located outside the city said health officials. Legionnaire’s disease is a form of pneumonia that can become life threatening.

The bacteria causing this disease Legionella pneumophila, was detected in an early investigation at 23rd Precinct station house on East 102nd Street in East Harlem. The water supply and other systems of the precinct are being thoroughly investigated for contamination. The case came under scanner last Saturday (10th June 2017). Nearly 200 to 400 cases of Legionnaires’ disease are detected in New York City every year says the health department.

Legionnaires’ disease can be treated with the use of antibiotics but left untreated can quickly turn fatal. Legionella pneumophila, lives and multiplies in water systems, air conditioners, indoor plumbing, cooling towers, mist sprayers and hot tubs. The spread becomes easier as the water works traverse the whole of the buildings. And these systems allow the bacteria to grow and spread.

According to the health officials yesterday, they are taking samples of water in the indoor plumbing trying to detect the source of the infection. Use of water at the showers or using hot water supply has been temporarily stopped at the building until the investigation is complete. Otherwise, it is safe to work there said the health Department officials.

Last Friday, two guests at a Las Vegas resort developed Legionnaires’ disease. They were staying at Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. One stayed there in March and the other in April, said officials. Health officials found Legionella bacteria in the hot-water system in one of the towers at the hotel.

Legionnaires’ disease was first detected in 1976 at a American Legion convention held in at a hotel in Philadelphia. Over 200 people developed a typical pneumonia and some succumbed to it. The water droplets containing the bacteria are typically inhaled and they lead to the infection. The typical symptoms include fever, headache, chills, muscle pain, body ache, and shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Older adults over the age of 50 years, smokers, those with other long term lung ailments, cancer patients, those with a weak immune system etc. are more at risk of getting this infection.

After an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2015 in South Bronx killing a dozen persons, the health department has issued tougher regulations regarding cooling towers and water systems. This outbreak affecting 128 individuals between July and August of 2015 is one of the largest of its kind in the city according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cases in United States seem to have increased four times in the last fifteen years said officials. The new regulations regarding cooling towers asks building owners to register their cooling towers and puts the onus on them to clean as well as test their waters in every quarter. This includes over 3,500 buildings in the city.

Photo credit: This micrograph depicted cytoarchitectural details seen in a lung tissue specimen from a Knoxville patient with fatal pneumonia due to Legionnaires’ disease. The tissue was stained using Dieterle’s silver stain, which employs a silver-impregnation staining technique, the results of which reveals the presence of Legionella pneumophila bacteria. Image Credit: CDC

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