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Mystery Solved in the Bronx Legionnaires Outbreak – Why Should We Care?

The Legionnaire’s disease outbreak that recently took over the Bronx is officially over.  The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH) confidently announced the end to this outbreak on Thursday, August 20, 2015 and determined that the Legionella bacteria that caused the deadly outbreak originated in the cooling tower of the Opera House Hotel[1].  This was reportedly confirmed after multiple tests of Legionella strains were conducted in several cooling towers around NYC’s northern most borough.[2] The South Bronx landmark was tested by the NYCDOHMH, the state’s Wadsworth Center Laboratory, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and has since been disinfected.

In the wake of the legionella outbreak which resulted in 12 deaths, last week the New York City Council passed legislation (Local Law No. 77) requiring building owners to inspect and clean their water cooling towers every three months in order to prevent future outbreaks.  Additionally, the bill requires building owners to carry out a maintenance plan and to register all cooling towers.  The State of New York also announced statewide emergency Legionnaires’ disease regulations (Emergency Regulations).

This recent deadly outbreak is a potent reminder of lethality of the Legionella bacteria that is ubiquitous in our environment.

If you or your clients own or manage employee or resident-occupied commercial, institutional, multiunit residential or industrial buildings that may be at risk for legionella contamination, call us at (888) 361-8882 for a free confidential consultation.

If you are concerned about the implications of the newly released Legionella guidelines, AHSRAE 188 2015 and the AIHA guidance document on Legionella, and want to know how to respond to the risks and get ahead of the changing industry practices , contact us at solutions@cogencyteam.com.

 

[1] Given that there are 34 species and 70 plus subspecies, we are presuming the NYCDOHMH investigators have a DNA type match between the environmental samples at the source tower and multiple patient specimens.

[2] After aerosols of legionellae are generated, other factors, such as size of the droplets, prevailing wind and other ambient conditions, e.g., temperature, moisture, and solar radiation, will influence the bacteria’s survivability to cause harm and the size of the at risk geographic area.

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