Warnings Issued To Residents After Cooling Towers At 5 Buildings Test Positive

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) The South Bronx Legionnaires’ disease outbreak has now taken the lives of seven people, officials said Monday.

The total number of deaths was up from four reported as of late last week. The additional deaths were reported on Sunday to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

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All of those who died were older adults with underlying medical problems, the department said.

The total number of people infected by Legionnaires’ in the South Bronx has risen to 81, and the number hospitalized has risen to 64. A total of 28 of those 64 patients have been discharged.

Most of the cases have been reported in Highbridge, Morrisania, Hunts Point and Mott Haven, officials said.

City health officials said of the 22 buildings tested in the outbreak area, cooling towers at five buildings tested positive for the bacteria Legionella: Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, the Concourse Plaza Mall, the Opera House Hotel, a Verizon office building, and the Streamline Plastic Co.

The five units have been disinfected, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused when water tainted with a certain bacteria is inhaled into the lungs. There have been 2,400 cases nationwide this year.

Droplets of contaminated water can be circulated through a building’s air conditioning. If the droplets are small enough they can be inhaled and enter the lungs, CBS2’s Matt Kozar reported.

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Cynthia Rodriguez has two young children and told Kozar she’s talking with her building’s management about their cooling system.

“I want to make sure that they’re taking steps to make everything clean,” Rodriguez said.

“I would just like (health officials) to get a grip on it before it gets out hand,” Bronx resident Jimmy Aovarado added.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea. Symptoms appear two to 10 days after exposure to Legionella bacteria.

As CBS2’s Kozar reported, city officials and health experts held a town hall on the epidemic at the Bronx Museum of the Arts Monday.

Medical officials told the crowd at the meeting that the disease typically impacts the sick and the elderly.

“I’m very concerned about where I can go in my area, and not catch this,” Maria Rivera told 1010 WINS Al Jones.

Officials said the disease is both treatable and preventable.

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