First and foremost, Legionnaires’ disease is fundamentally a water issue. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene—if truly committed to finding disease source—must expand its investigation to consider all possible transmission points potentially infected with the Legionella bacteria coming from the water distribution system and not singularly focus on one piece of equipment. The Department should follow a thorough investigation protocol for Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks that calls for a comprehensive epidemiological approach, and not short circuit the investigation by solely testing cooling towers.
New York’s current policy and actions to address a growing Legionnaires’ disease problem in the City is unfortunately not working. Since the summer of 2015 when Local Law 77 went into effect, disease rates are actually on the rise. How many more outbreaks must occur and how many people must contract the disease before the City will acknowledge that it is time to take a broader approach? Only when working together with experts, communities and stakeholders will we make progress on preventing this disease.