Washington Heights Legionnaires' Disease Announcement

Steve Burns/WCBS 880

1 Person Confirmed Dead In Washington Heights Legionnaires' Outbreak

July 17, 2018 - 3:39 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- One person has died in the latest cluster of Legionnaires’ disease cases in Washington Heights, city officials announced Tuesday afternoon.

As WCBS 880’s Steve Burns reported Tuesday afternoon, at least seven people from Washington Heights and Upper Hamilton Heights have been hospitalized for the disease, which is contracted by breathing in water vapor that contains the Legionella bacteria.

Nine patients have been discharged, according to Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Deputy Commissioner for Disease Control Dr. Demetre Daskalakis.

“It’s really important, if you’re feeling sick, to get attention. The symptoms of Legionella are flulike symptoms, so if you’re feeling flulike, this is not the time to wait. It’s important to pursue medical care,” he said.

Daskalakis said the person who died did not get treatment early.

All the cooling towers in the area – 20 in total – have been tested and treated. But city Councilman Mark Levine (D-7th) noted that might not mean the end of it just yet.

“There’s about a two-week incubation period for this disease, so there’s a good chance – we don’t know for sure, but we should be prepared – that there are people out there who have this disease and don’t know it yet,” Levine said.

Officials remind the public that Legionnaires’ disease is not spread from person to person, but by breathing in water vapor. The city’s tap water, and other things such as window-mounted air conditioning units, are still safe.

The last time the city had a Legionnaires' outbreak was in 2015 in the Bronx. Over 130 people were sickened by the disease and there were 10 reported fatalities.

Cooling towers were blamed in that outbreak.