'Easily Preventable' Outbreak Kills 4 in NYC

Legionnaires' disease found in 5 cooling towers
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2015 6:43 AM CDT
'Easily Preventable' Outbreak Kills 4 in NYC
This electron micrograph image provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a large grouping of Gram-negative Legionella pneumophila bacteria.    (AP Photo/Janice Haney Carr)

These are nervous times in the Bronx: An outbreak of Legionnaires' disease has killed four people and sickened at least 71—and while officials believe the bacteria spread through a building cooling system, they haven't pinpointed which one because so many are infected. Five out of 17 building cooling towers that were inspected turned out to harbor the bacteria, which is spread through airborne water droplets, ABC7 reports. Officials say the buildings, including a hotel and a hospital, have been disinfected, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. says he wants the city to prevent future outbreaks by making sure cooling systems are inspected and regulated in the same way that elevators are, the New York Daily News reports.

Legionnaires expert William F. McCoy agrees that better inspection and management could have prevented the outbreak. "There’s no technical or scientific reason that anyone should ever get sick from the water in their buildings, and yet it happens because we don’t manage the water the way we should," he tells the New York Times. Bronx residents—some of whom have been stocking up on bottled water despite having been assured that drinking water isn't the source of the bacteria—say the outbreak isn't just bad luck. "They’re putting our health at risk," a retired truck driver tells the Daily News. "But they don’t care because this is a poor neighborhood." (Researchers warn that hospital water features can spread the disease.)

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