The ongoing investigation into two recent Legionnaires’ disease cases at a Rego Park apartment building is sadly another example proving the Health Department’s current narrow policy to prevent this disease is ineffective and that a more comprehensive and proactive approach is necessary. It’s unfortunate that a second victim had to be hospitalized before the City was willing to test the building’s water system–especially considering this additional case might have been prevented if the water system was tested when the first case was originally reported.
Not including this most recent diagnosis, 212 people in New York City have reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease to the CDC so far in 2017. That’s an 81 percent increase in cases over the same amount of time in 2016. It is unacceptable that hundreds of New Yorkers continue to be infected with this potentially deadly, but preventable disease every year. New York City can and should do better.
It is time for the City and the Health Department to reconsider their narrow-minded approach to Legionnaires’ disease prevention. Its singular focus on building equipment is failing to keep the public safe. By not routinely testing the water entering our homes and buildings–especially those housing older and immune-compromised populations–for Legionella bacteria and testing water systems after each and every reported case of Legionnaires’ disease, people in New York City will continue to get sick and cases will continue to climb.