Legionnaires’ death toll reaches 10 with 100 people sickened amid Bronx outbreak

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NEW YORK — Another person has died from an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in New York City, bringing the death toll to ten.

City health officials say 100 people have been diagnosed with the disease, which is caused when water contaminated with a certain bacteria is inhaled into the lungs. Most of the victims are older and had other medical problems.

Despite the rising totals, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city and state health departments say they're confident they've found the source of the latest outbreak in the South Bronx -- cooling towers that can release mist. Five towers in the area tested positive for legionella bacteria and have since been decontaminated.

As they announced the rising total of diagnoses, officials cautioned against panic, saying those cases were likely diagnosed several days ago but are just being reported due to a lag time in collecting the information. The City Health Department said numbers are trending in the right direction to suggest they've obtained the upper hand on the outbreak.

To help prevent future outbreaks, de Blasio has ordered any city building owners with the water cooling systems to have those system disinfected immediately if they have not done so in the last 30 days.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. on Thursday gave a tour of the area to the director of the state department of health. The guided trip was an effort to show members of the community that all hands are on deck from the city and state to end the outbreak. Meanwhile, the governor's office is offering free legionella testing to any building owners who have cooling systems similar to the ones found to contain the disease in the South Bronx.

Health officials say Legionnaires' disease, a severe form of pneumonia, is easily diagnosed and treated with antibiotics but can pose a serious risk to anyone with an underlying medical condition. There have been 2,400 cases nationwide this year.