Department of Health confirms 12 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Downtown Flushing

Five people in Flushing remain hospitalized after a cluster of cases of Legionnaire’s disease are discovered in the area.
Courtesy of New York Presbyterian-Queens
By Gina Martinez

The New York City Department of Health has confirmed 12 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the Downtown Flushing area in the past two weeks.

According to the DOH, most of the patients had serious underlying health conditions. Five of the patients are currently hospitalized and recovering, and seven have already been discharged from the hospital.

The DOH said the patients range in age from early 30’s to late 80’s. The department is currently investigating two more cases to determine whether they are part of this cluster.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by the bacteria Legionella. Symptoms typically include fever, cough, chills, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea and appear two to 10 days after significant exposure to Legionella bacteria, according to the DOH.

Legionnaires’ disease cannot be spread from person to person and most cases can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as cooling towers, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks, and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems, the DOH said.

The Health Department is actively investigating these cases and has taken water samples from all cooling tower systems within the investigation zone to test for Legionella. The department is also organizing a community meeting to inform residents, answer questions and address any concerns.

“The Health Department is currently investigating a cluster of Legionnaires’ disease cases in the downtown Flushing area of Queens, and I urge individuals in this area with respiratory symptoms to seek medical attention right away,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. “People over the age of 50 and people with compromised immune systems are especially at risk. As with our previous Legionnaires’ disease investigations, we are in the process of investigating the source of the cluster and are working with building owners in the area to rapidly test and clean cooling towers.”

The DOH is urging residents in the area with respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough, chills and muscle aches to seek medical attention and alerted health care providers in the area about this cluster. Legionnaires’ can be treated by using antibiotics for pneumonia. Every year, there are between 200 and 400 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the city, the DOH said.

Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said her office will stay in touch with the DOH during their investigation.

“I will be monitoring developments closely and urge area residents to follow the recommendations of the Health Department,” she said. “I thank the Department of Health for moving quickly to investigate this matter, and for raising awareness in the community.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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