By AMANDA EISENBERG
07/13/2018 06:18 PM EDT
Six more people have confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease, bringing the total to 14 cases, according to the city’s latest update on the breakout.
Half of the 14 people from the lower Washington Heights and northern Hamilton Heights area are hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported since the outbreak of the airborne disease was announced Thursday afternoon.
“It’s unfortunate, but this outbreak was inevitable,” Daryn Cline, a spokesman for the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease, said in a statement. “And while the outbreak in Washington Heights is the latest episode in a sad saga, the real story is that New York repeatedly leads the nation in Legionnaires’ disease cases with the vast majority of individual cases being substantially ignored.”
The city is withholding the addresses of the individuals who contracted Legionnaires’ disease because the bacteria is transmitted through vapor from nearby cooling towers. The high temperatures this month likely created a favorable condition for the bacteria to grow, Council Member Mark Levine said.
Twenty cooling towers in the area have since been inspected by the city’s department of health.
Based on preliminary testing results, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued commissioner’s orders to several buildings requiring property owners to increase the use of biocides that kill the bacteria or to change the biocide previously used. The health department said it is awaiting final sampling results.
“The failure of our public officials to test the public water system for Legionella bacteria is a problem as our own sampling has shown Legionella bacteria can be readily found in areas like public fountains,” Cline wrote. “The narrow scope of the City’s investigations to find the source of outbreaks and sporadic cases is also an issue.”
The disease causes flu-like symptoms, such as a fever and cough, and can be treated with antibiotics, said Levine, chairman of the Health Committee.
It is also more likely to attack those over the age of 50 who have chronic conditions or smoke, Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said.
The city reports anywhere from 200 to 500 cases of Legionnaires’ disease each year.
“New Yorkers should not accept that hundreds of Legionnaires’ disease infections every year is considered normal,” Cline wrote. “It’s time to implement a real solution to this perennial problem.”