2017-11-08 / Front Page

Update On Flushing Legionnaires’ Cluster Investigation

The Health Department has identified one additional case of Legionnaires’ disease in downtown Flushing. The person is not hospitalized. This person began having symptoms well before a cluster was declared, but was only recently diagnosed, on October 25. The Health Department stated, “For this reason, we remain confident that the risk to Flushing residents continues to diminish. If by next week we do not see any additional cases with illness onset later than October 17 in downtown Flushing, we will declare the case investigation over. However, remediation of cooling towers identified during the investigation will continue as necessary.”

Background

The downtown Flushing cluster investigation was announced on October 24. As of November 2, there are a total of 15 cases reported in the investigation area. One person remains hospitalized. No deaths are associated with this cluster.

The Health Department and the Mayor’s Office have sent outreach teams to transit hubs and senior centers in the area to distribute information about Legionnaires’ disease, in addition to recording robocalls in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Korean for residents in the area.

To address concerns and answer questions, the Health Department hosted a community meeting with Council Member Peter Koo on Monday October 30 at Flushing Town Hall for area residents.

Legionnaires’ disease is not contagious and it is a very treatable disease, if care is sought early.

New Yorkers at the highest risk for Legionnaire’s disease include people who are age 50 or older, especially cigarette smokers, people with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems and people who take medicines that weaken their immune systems (immunosuppressive drugs).

Symptoms include fever, cough, chills and muscle aches. New Yorkers with any of these symptoms should see their doctor immediately. Legionnaires’ can be diagnosed with a urine test.

Every year, NYC sees between 200 and 400 cases of Legionnaires’ disease. While the Health Department sees cases throughout the year, cases of Legionnaires’ disease usually increase during the warmer months – summer and fall.

Cooling Tower Information

As a part of the investigation, the Health Department sampled every cooling tower in a 1.2 kilometer radius. Fifty-five cooling towers were identified – 49 were operational.

Preliminary tests indicated the existence of the type of Legionella bacteria that can make some people sick in some of the cooling towers in the area.

Commissioner's Orders were issued to 11 buildings requiring property owners to immediately increase the use of chemical disinfectant to kill the bacteria or to change the biocide previously used. These buildings are required to report their compliance with the Order to the Department.

Final testing results will be ready in two weeks and will inform next steps in terms of full disinfection and cleaning of any cooling towers showing this specific type of Legionella bacteria.

 

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