Two dead, 24 diagnosed in a group of Legionnaires in the Bronx

Two people have now died of Legionnaires’ disease in the Bronx, health officials said Wednesday.

The city’s health department said 24 people have been diagnosed since May 3 and four are currently hospitalized – the latest update on the cluster of cases in the Highbridge neighborhood of the Bronx.

Four cooling towers in the region have tested positive for Legionella pneumophila, the bacteria that causes the disease. The health department said all four towers have since been disinfected.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by inhaling steam containing the bacteria, which thrives in hot water. Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches and cough. The disease can be treated with antibodies, but can be fatal for those considered to be at high risk. It’s not contagious.

The two deceased in the current group in the Bronx were over 50 and had risk factors for serious illness, health officials said.

New Yorkers living or working in the area with flu-like symptoms are advised to get evaluated for both COVID-19 and Legionnaires’ disease. Smokers, people with chronic lung disease or with weakened immune symptoms are particularly at risk.

In 2015, an epidemic of legionellosis infected 138 people, killing 16 people. In response to the outbreak, the city passed a law requiring all building owners to register, maintain and test their cooling towers. In 2019, authorities added an additional requirement for building owners to disinfect cooling towers once during the summer, when the growth of Legionella and other bacteria is most prevalent.

Last year, the city released a report that cited more than 2,115 violations at 3,326 towers inspected in 2020.

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