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First doctor to successfully treat Legionnaires’ disease weighs in on recent outbreak

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NEW YORK — They're coming together.

This was the message from City Hall in a release shortly after 5 p.m on Tuesday regarding Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo coming together in the fight against Legionnaires disease.

This after reports surfaced of political bickering between Albany and Lower Manhattan.

Dr. Ezriel Kornel offered up the following regarding the allegations of political posturing, "It bothers me because me this isn't about any individual politician and how they are handling their job it is about making sure that the public is taken care of properly."

Dr. Kornel is a neurosurgeon and assistant professor of neurosurgery at Weill Cornell Medical College.  He spoke with PIX 11 News hours after the city announced a total of 115 cases in the Legionnaires outbreak in The Bronx, "Politics should have nothing to do with this. The health department should be totally separate from any politics.  There should be fundamental, routine ways of managing public health that has nothing to do with politics."

Dr. Kornel speaks from experience.  In fact, once he learned of the first death in the Bronx as a result of Legionnaires it immediately forced him to reflect back to his early days in medicine, "It brought me back to when I was an intern in 1978 in Washington D.C. and I remember taking care of a patient who had legionnaires disease."

Dr. Kornel successfully diagnosed and treated the first patient to survive Legionnaires disease at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington D.C.  That period was filled with sleepless nights and much uncertainty, "I stayed up day and night with him for over a week, literally day and night to maintain his oxygenation as his lungs were barely functioning until they were able to start recovering so I remember it pretty vividly."

Now 37 years later, after treating thousands of patients, Dr. Kornel shared his memories, since the patient's body was ravaged by the disease and pushed to its limits, "There were times every few hours that we thought we might lose him. It was really an hour by hour problem for days."

Ultimately the patient recovered and the disease has rarely made news since, until the outbreak in the Bronx that has produced 12 deaths.  The outbreak raising Dr. Kornel's concerns as a result of the times we are in.

To put it simply, this is 2015, not 1978, "I was concerned because since it is now a well known disease. I was surprised that so many patients had already passed away from it."