By Gina Martinez
An additional person has been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease in downtown Flushing, raising the number to 15, the city Department of Health said Thursday.
The downtown Flushing cluster investigation was announced Oct. 24, when 12 people had been diagnosed, and in the last week three additional confirmed cases have been disclosed, including the 15th victim. As of Thursday, the DOH said only one person remained hospitalized.
On Oct. 30 DOH held a community meeting at Flushing Town hall with Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) to answer questions and concerns about the cluster. Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett asked anyone who exhibits symptoms, which include fever, cough, chills, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea, to get tested.
DOH said the newly diagnosed person was not hospitalized and began having symptoms before a cluster was declared, but was only diagnosed on Oct. 25.
“For this reason, we remain confident that the risk to Flushing residents continues to diminish,” DOH said. “If by next week we do not see any additional cases with illness onset later than Oct. 17 in downtown Flushing, we will declare the case investigation over. However, remediation of cooling towers identified during the investigation will continue as necessary.”
According to the department, it has sampled every cooling tower in a 1.2-kilometer radius of the area where the DOH believes the cluster began. The agency has tested 55 cooling towers and DOH said preliminary testing indicated the existence of the type of Legionella bacteria that can make some people sick in some of the cooling towers in the area. Bassett has ordered 11 buildings to immediately increase the use of chemical disinfectant to kill the bacteria or to change the biocide previously used. According to DOH, final test results will be ready in two weeks and will determine the next steps in terms of full disinfection and cleaning of any cooling towers showing this specific type of Legionella bacteria.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart