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Health Department investigating 2nd cluster of Legionnaires’ in Washington Heights

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The Health Department is investigating a second community cluster of Legionnaires’ disease in Lower Washington Heights.

Eight people have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease within five days. All eight have been hospitalized and one has been discharged. Ages of the individuals range from under 40 to over 80, with the majority of cases over 50 years of age. There have been no deaths associated with this cluster.

The Health Department is actively investigating these cases and is sampling and testing water from all active cooling tower systems in the area of the cluster.

A community meeting will be held 6 p.m.  Monday, October 8, at The Jackie Robinson Recreation Center at 85 Bradhurst Avenue.

“The Health Department has identified a second cluster this season of Legionnaires disease in the Lower Washington Heights area and we are taking aggressive steps to ensure the safety of residents,” said Acting Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “We have ordered the Sugar Hill development, which operates the cooling tower identified as the source of the July cluster and had cleaned and disinfected at that time, to clean and disinfect again given its proximity to new cases. Although the risk is very low, we urge residents and people who work in the area to take precautions. Legionnaires‘ disease is not contagious and can be treated with common antibiotics if caught early. Anyone with flu-like symptoms such as cough, fever or difficulty breathing should seek medical attention immediately.”

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that is caused by the bacteria Legionella, which grows in warm water. Symptoms resemble other types of pneumonia and can include fever, chills, muscle aches, and cough. Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as cooling towers, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks, and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.

Individuals may be infected by breathing in water vapor containing Legionella, and the disease is not transmitted from person to person. Individuals at higher risk include those ages 50 and above, cigarette smokers, and people with chronic lung disease or compromised immune systems. People living or working in the area who are experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention with a primary care provider or seek urgent care.

If residents have concerns they can 311 or email the Health Department’s Office of Community Affairs, communityaffairs@health.nyc.gov.