According to a spokesperson for the Health Department, the cases occurred at Parker Towers, located at 104-60 Queens Blvd., within a two-month period. One of the victim’s recovered but an elderly person living in the complex has died.
The disease is an advanced type of pneumonia caused by the bacteria Legionalla. People 50 and older are more susceptible to the disease and it is mostly spread through water droplets in the air.
The Health Department is working with the building’s management to test Parker Towers’ hot water plumbing system and tenants were notified of the cases. Health Department officials will be on site to answer any questions and if necessary, they will require management to start remediation if the bacteria is found.
Parker Towers does not have a cooling tower, which is usually where Legionalla thrives. In 2015, the Bronx reported 145 cases of Legionnaires’ disease. The largest and deadliest outbreak in the city’s history occurred in August 2015 when the cooling tower at the Opera House Hotel infected 128 people and killed 12.
In recent weeks, Legionnaires’ cases were detected at apartment buildings in Flushing, Rego Park and Howard Beach. According to the Health Department, 200 to 400 Legionnaires’ disease cases are reported in the city every year.
Though the water in the Forest Hills building is safe to use, the Health Department suggests that residents who are more prone to contracting the disease – people 50 or older, especially those who smoke cigarettes, residents who have chronic lung disease and those with compromised immune systems, to take additional precautions.
The suggested precautions are listed below:
o Don’t take a shower, even a cool shower—since it could create water vapor. Instead, take a bath, but fill the tub slowly and try to minimize your time in the bathroom while the water is running.
o Wash dishes but fill the sink slowly to avoid creating mist.
o Drink cold water from the tap but start with cold water when heating water for tea, coffee or cooking.
o You do not need to wear a mask.
o Wash your hands.
The 2015 outbreak lead the Health Department to enact stricter protocols such as implementing the toughest cooling tower regulations in the country, hiring more inspectors and training existing city personnel to inspect towers, expanding lab capacity and notifying the community faster.