2 Cases Of Legionnaires’ Disease Reported At Queens Building

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Testing of the water supply continues at a New York City Housing Authority apartment complex in Queens where two cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported.

The residents of one of four apartment buildings of Latimer Gardens on 137th Street in Flushing were diagnosed 10 months apart, according to the Health Department.

The first person was hospitalized and released at the end of 2016. The Health Department would only say the second case was diagnosed in the last couple of months and that person remains hospitalized.

A note on the front door of the building from the Health Department says “the risk of infection is very low.”

Tenants are being told they can still use and drink the water as testing continues, but are being advised to take certain precautions. 

The bacteria gets inhaled through water vapors so tenants are being advised to guard against pro-longed full blast streams of water, such as showers, that create mist or vapor. They’re being told to let water trickle out and let it fill a bathtub, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported.

“It is really scary, very scary because you don’t know what’s going on,” said tenant Ikesha Foy. “We can drink the water but who wants to drink that?”

“I have to buy bottled water now at the supermarket,” tenant Lisa Morant added.

“It’s real annoying right now, it’s a big problem,” said tenant Ken McNatt. “You have to take baths, you can’t take hot showers. If you’re not in good health then I wouldn’t advise you to use the water. I have to take a shower every day and luckily I’m in good health so if I wasn’t I’d fear the water.”

Legionnaires’ does not spread from person to person.

“It is acquired not from person-to-person, but through inhaling water mist that contains legionnella bacteria,” Commissioner of the New York City Health Department Mary Bassett said. “It is very treatable.”

Those at highest risk are people age 50 or older who smoke cigarettes, have lung disease, or weakened immune systems.

“If your immune system is weak, it can affect anybody,” said one tenant.

“If you’re 50 or older and have a chronic disease, don’t take a shower,” another added.

It’s caused by the bacteria legionella, according to the New York City Health Department, most cases can be traced to plumbing systems like cooling towers, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks, and large air conditioning systems.

The city started regular, mandatory inspections of cooling systems after a deadly Legionnaires’ outbreak in the South Bronx two-years-ago. In that case 12 people died.

Other recent legionnaires cases were reported in June in Lenox Hill and Harlem.

Symptoms include fever, cough, chills, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea, officials said. Symptoms typically appear 2-10 days after exposure to Legionella bacteria.

The Health Department said out of an abundance of caution, it has installed a copper silver ionization system to disinfect the water at the building.

Officials are looking to determine the source of the bacteria.

There is no cooling tower in the building, where the bacteria commonly breeds.

Test results are due in two weeks, Carlin reported.

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