Death toll in NYC Legionnaire’s outbreak grows to 7 victims

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SOUTH BRONX — Legionnaires' disease doesn’t have a sensational, high profile compared to, let’s say, Ebola. But so far, it’s been much deadlier.

City health officials say seven people have died from complications stemming from the bacterial infection. The deceased were all older adults with preexisting medical conditions.

As of Monday afternoon, there were 81 reported cases and 64 hospitalizations. Of the 64 hospitalized, 28 patients were treated and released.

PIX11 spoke to senior residents in the Bronx to get their thoughts on the outbreak.

“We’re seniors! So we’re susceptible to this Legionnaire’s disease what’s going to happen? How do we get to the doctor? How do we protect ourselves from this?” said Bronx resident Dolores Varner.

The Legionella bacteria thrives in warm water -- more specifically in cooling towers, and water spores, found in central air conditioning units in large buildings.

City health officials have so far inspected several cooling towers across the borough, and found the bacteria in about half a dozen.

Dr. Amar Safdar, director of the Infectious diseases department at NYU Langone Medical Center told us Friday about the difficulty in trying to single out who’s infected with Legionnaires'.

“And the thing with Legionnaire's disease is that most antibiotics that are used to treat strep pneumonia, which is the most common cause of pneumonia, may not work. So unless you’re thinking about this infection, there is no panacea so to speak,” said Dr. Safdar.

A town hall meeting is scheduled for this evening at the Bronx museum, right here on Grand Concourse.

“I don’t really want to think about it. It’s just the idea of this going around where we live. We don’t know where it comes from. This is the not the first time. When I saw it on the news, we used to hear about that years ago. Legionnaire’s disease? They’re’ not telling everybody exactly what it is - and people are very scared about their health,” said Bronx resident Betty Futrell.