Sep 23, 2021

Harlem, New York, Legionnaires' Disease Cluster Traced to Hospital Cooling Tower

No new cases have been reported in four weeks and the cooling towers in the affected buildings have been disinfected.

harlem-new york

New York City health officials closed an investigation into a cluster of Legionnaires' disease cases in Harlem.

According to NYC Department of Health, there are no new cases that have been reported in four weeks and the cooling towers in the affected buildings have been disinfected.

"I'm grateful for the many Health Department staff who identified and responded to this cluster quickly," said Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city's health commissioner in a statement, reported NYC DOH. "After an extensive investigation, we were able to identify one cooling tower that matched to a clinical specimen, and appropriate cleaning and disinfection measures at that tower and all other potential sources were conducted."

That cooling tower was at NYC Health and Hospitals/Harlem, known as Harlem Hospital. According to officials, 18 people were hospitalized and 16 of those patients have been discharged and no one has died. Officials warn that the symptoms of Legionnaires' disease usually begin two to 10 days after being exposed to the bacteria but people should watch for symptoms for about two weeks after exposure, according to the CDC.

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"Most cases of Legionnaires' disease can be traced to contamination of artificial water systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as cooling towers or evaporative condensers associated with air conditioning and industrial cooling, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, decorative fountains and water features, hot water tanks, and complex plumbing system systems," said the NYC DOH. "Individuals only get sick by breathing in water vapor containing Legionella bacteria, and the disease is not transmitted from person to person."

All facilities with cooling towers in the cluster area fully cooperated with the Health Department and those with Legionella positive results completed full cleaning and disinfection as directed, added the department. 

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