MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, Manhattan (PIX11) — State and city health officials are investigating a suspected outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease connected to a Morningside Heights nursing home, in which multiple people among the possible patients have died, according to authorities.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Health confirmed late Thursday that it’s found eight suspected cases of Legionnaires’ disease linked to the Amsterdam Nursing Home, with the cases first emerging earlier this summer.
Of the eight patients, officials said that three so far have confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia typically contracted by breathing in mist containing the Legionella bacteria. As city health officials pointed out recently at an unrelated event, Legionnaires’ disease cannot be contracted through drinking water.
And of the eight patients, four have died, including two of those confirmed to have the disease, officials said. However, the DOH spokesperson said, causes of death have not been formally determined, and all of the deceased had multiple underlying health conditions or comorbidities.
The DOH spokesperson said that the agency has taken steps to locate the source of the bacteria and stem further cases.
“In its regulatory role, the Department has advised additional surveillance activities, water sampling and water use restrictions to help prevent additional cases of legionellosis,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The Department also conducted an onsite review and is providing support and guidance, which includes the recommendation to put in place water restrictions for all of the facility’s West Wing units, where the suspect cases resided. Water restrictions will remain in place until additional water culture testing for Legionella has been completed and no additional cases are identified.”
The nursing home previously screened its water system in January and June of this year, with neither test detecting the bacteria, officials said. The results of tests conducted by the facility on Aug. 31 and by the state DOH on Sept. 8 are still pending.
PIX11 News reviewed state records and found that the facility amassed 30 health and safety violations between Aug. 2018 and July 2022, in excess of the state average. The facility was also cited for violations related to water cooling tower inspections in 2017 and 2021, records show.
Asked for comment, a spokesperson for the facility laid out the steps taken amid the suspected outbreak.
“All further tests have been coming back negative and the facility has provided bottled water for drinking and for all sanitary uses, even though special DOH-recommended filters have been placed into ice/water machines,” the statement read in part. “Amsterdam Nursing Home installed hospital grade FDA-approved filters on each faucet and shower head as per the NYS DOH recommendation.”
The facility spokesperson also provided numbers on cases that differed from the state DOH’s tally of eight. One resident died in a suspected but unconfirmed case in 2021 and a second died in a confirmed case this year, while another two “are recovering nicely,” and three remain hospitalized, for a total patient count of seven, according to the spokesperson.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the families who were affected by this terrible bacteria,” the spokesperson said.