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Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock
3-D illustration of bacterium Legionella pneumophila

The New York City Health Department is testing the water in a Rego Park building after two residents were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease within the past 12 months.

According to the Health Department, one patient has been discharged while the other remains hospitalized from the disease. The two cases were diagnosed within six months of each other.

DNAinfo reported the address to be 93-10 Queens Blvd., but the Health Department did not confirm or deny that to be the location.

On Tuesday, Aug. 22, tenants were notified about the investigation by their landlord and the Health Department went door to door to the residents the next day. Two days later, the building management and the Health Department hosted a tenant meeting to brief residents about the investigation.

“While the risk of infection to tenants is very low, as part of the routine protocol to assess potential sources of Legionnaires’ disease, the Health Department is working with the building management to test the building’s water supply.” said the Health Department in a statement.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that comes from the Legionella bacteria, which is typically found in water systems, including indoor plumbing. It is not contagious and can easily treated with antibiotics if detected early.

Those who are considered high risk for catching the disease include those aged 50 or older (especially if they smoke cigarettes), people with chronic lung disease, and those with compromised immune systems. People who fit these descriptions are advised to take baths instead of showers, fill their sinks slowly when washing dishes and wash their hands.

“People only get sick by breathing in water vapor containing the bacteria,” said the Health Department. “Adults with flu-like symptoms, fever, cough or difficulty breathing should seek immediate medical attention.”

The Health Department also says it is fine to drink cold water from the tap, but start with cold water when heating water for tea, coffee or cooking.

An average of 200 to 400 cases of Legionnaires’ disease are reported every year. Earlier this month, the Health Department began investigating a Flushing housing complex after two cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported. An outbreak in the South Bronx in 2015 led the Health Department to launch a comprehensive plan to reduce the risk of Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks in the city. The plan included implementing tougher cooling tower regulations, hiring of more inspectors and training of existing city personnel to inspect towers if needed, expanding lab capacity, and quickly notifying the community of any infections.

“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,” said the Alliance To Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease in a statement. “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.”

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