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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the South Bronx that has killed 12 people is mostly contained.
“The good news is that this outbreak is tapering off,” de Blasio said in a news conference Monday.
No new cases have been reported since Aug. 3, he added.
One of the issues has been pinpointing buildings that have cooling towers.
Mary Bassett, the city’s health commissioner, has estimated the city has more than 2,500 cooling towers.
In a canvas of the South Bronx area, 161 buildings with cooling towers were identified. Out of the 39 towers that were tested, 15 tested positive for the bacteria. All of the contaminated buildings have been disinfected.
On Monday, de Blasio said the bacteria has affected 113 people and hospitalized 94 individuals. Of those impacted, 76 have been treated and discharged, the mayor added.
“We’ve never seen such a concentrated outbreak in the history of New York City,” de Blasio said at the conference.
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that is caused by the Legionella bacteria that grows in warm water.
It’s not spread from person to person. People contract it by breathing in water vapor that contains the bacteria.
The vapor can come from mist from a shower, faucet, or a cooling tower. Cooling towers have been targeted because they use water to run a building’s air conditioning, ventilation, and/or heating systems.
Older adults — especially those who smoke, have lung disease, or weakened immune systems —are most susceptible to Legionnaires’ disease.
Symptoms can include fever, chills, muscle aches, and cough. Some people may experience headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion, or diarrhea in addition to those symptoms.
The disease can be detected in sputum and urine tests. Most people recover with antibiotics. In rare cases, it can be fatal.
On Monday, de Blasio said he has introduced legislation to keep tighter controls on water towers.
The measure would require all towers to be registered and subject to quarterly inspections performed by the city. When a tower has dangerous levels of microbes, it must then be reported to the health department. Building owners who do not adhere to the rule would be penalized.
In any case where a building owner doesn’t comply, de Blasio said the city would step in.
“We will use our resources to get the information,” he said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has sparred with de Blasio in public comments on how the outbreak has been handled. Some disparities have been reported about how many sites have detected the bacteria.
The mayor said they could find the bacteria in other areas, but that doesn’t mean people will be affected. If it’s found, the city will respond.
“We’re going to focus on resolving issues in the impacted area,” de Blasio said. “I don’t hesitate to do things quickly when they need to be done quickly.”