Legionnaires’ Town Hall Meeting

Dr. Mary Bassett (c) and Daniel Kass from DOHMH gave updates and answered questions regarding the recent Legionnaires’ disease cluster discovered in the 10461 zip code at Thursday’s town hall meeting.
Photo by Walter Pofeldt

A Legionnaires’ cluster impacting the 10461 zip code appears to be waning, according to the New York City the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

A town hall discussion on Legionnaires’ disease was held on Thursday, October 1 at Maestro’s Caterers where community leaders, elected officials, DOHMH medical professionals and residents learned more about the disease and how the city is ensuring peoples’ safety.

During the meeting, New York City’s Commissioner of Health Dr. Mary Bassett said the Legionnaires’ cluster discovered in the 10461 zip code remains at 13 people infected and one reported death.

She added that four patients have been discharged from the hospital while eight remain hospitalized.

A spokesperson for DOHMH said the 13 cases include three individuals between ages 25 to 44, eight individuals ages 45 to 64 and two individuals more than age 65.

The three cases in the 25 to 44 year group had multiple medical problems and all 13 cases had underlying health conditions, according to DOHMH.

Five individuals are residents of the 10461 zip code while eight either worked or visited the infected area.

Dr. Basset said there have been no new cases since September 21 and added the incubation period for the disease is two to ten days which is soon approaching.

She said the cluster was first identified starting with four, then six patients who had a connection the area.

DOHMH reviewed cases of people with Legionnaires’ in the Bronx and looked for a connection between them and 10461.

“We added them to the cluster not because they were newly sick, but because they were identified by this link,” she said.

Fifteen cooling towers including Chase Bank at 2725 E. Tremont Avenue; Calvary Hospital at 1740 Eastchester Road; Lehman High School at 2964 E. Tremont Avenue; Bronx State Psychiatric at 1500 Waters Place and ones located at Einstein College of Medicine’s 1199 Sackett Avenue, 1845 Eastchester Road, 1301 Morris Park Avenue, 1250 Morris Park Avenue, 1865 Eastchester Road and 1925-1935 Eastchester Road, that tested positive have since been disinfected.

Cooling towers at Jack D. Weiler Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at 1825 Eastchester Road tested negative for Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’.

In accordance with Local Law 77 of 2015 which became effective on August 18, 2015; cooling towers must be registered with NYC Department of Buildings prior to initial operation and existing ones must register with DOB within 30 days of the law’s enactment; owners and operators are required to annually certify the cooling towers have been inspected, tested, cleaned and disinfected with compliance of the law and must be performed in accordance with DOHMH regulations.

DOHMH said positive cooling towers must submit a long-term maintenance plan to the health department to keep them free of the bacteria causing Legionnaires’.

Legionella bacterium is characterized by pneumonia-type symptoms that occurs two to 14 days after exposure through inhaling contaminated water mist from cooling towers, whirlpool spas, showers and faucets.

The disease can be treated with antibiotics and early treatment helps reduce the possibility of serious complications.

There is no vaccination for the disease.

On Thursday, October 1, Senator Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj announced prior to the town hall meeting their offices would partner with ProHealth Urgent Care located at 1049 Morris Park Avenue for free Legionnaires’ disease evaluations and treatment for seniors and uninsured residents.

ProHealth Urgent Care started offering evaluations and treatment on Friday, October 2 and will continue doing so until Sunday, October 11.

Senior citizens and uninsured residents residing in the 10461 or 10462 zip codes can walk in Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. or Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. if they experience Legionnaires’ disease symptoms. Co-pays will be waived.

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