Even though no new cases with an onset of symptoms have occurred since Aug.3, Bronx residents are at wit’s end over the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio visited a senior citizen center in the Bronx earlier this week to remind the public who is at risk for contracting Legionnaires’ disease and what the symptoms are.
“We all know that Legionnaires’ tends to affect older people more, and it was important to give these seniors a progress report to remind them of the help that was available if anyone had symptoms; to remind them that it’s very important, whenever someone feels they do have the symptoms, to immediately seek medical care—whether that’s with your own doctor or the easiest thing one can do in this community—go to the Lincoln Hospital emergency room,” said de Blasio. “Again, symptoms—shortness of breath, headache, flu-like symptoms—things that no one should try and explain away or minimize. The simple thing to do is, if you live in this area of the South Bronx, go and get the medical attention right away.”
The city has already let citizens know that Legionnaires’ disease isn’t contagious and that the tap water is safe to drink, but that hasn’t taken away from the anger and fear among Bronxites who want to avoid further contaminations and deaths.
As of press time, city officials said there were 115 reported individuals with Legionnaires’ disease, 79 individuals treated and discharged and 12 deaths. All of the deaths recorded occurred in adults who already had other medical conditions.
Bronxites have contracted Legionnaries’ disease by inhaling the air distributed by cooling towers. Cooling towers are not the same as air conditioners. Cooling towers pull heat from inside a building and then use water and an evaporation process to transfer the heat outside. Any excess water lands in a catch basin, which is where bacteria can develop and grow.
Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, de Blasio and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced that the state and city would jointly craft and institute uniform regulations to combat the Legionnaires’ outbreak. The regulations, currently being drafted by the governor’s office, mayor’s office and City Council representatives, will mandate the timeframes and the processes for maintenance and testing of cooling towers, fines for failure to comply and a statewide registry.
The goal over the next several days is for the city legislation to be passed by the City Council and signed by the mayor, while Cuomo uses the emergency powers of his office to make the policy statewide.
“Protecting the public health is our number one priority,” said Cuomo in a statement. “I want the people of New York to know that we are doing everything necessary to tackle this outbreak and stop it from happening again.”
Previously, the mayor’s and governor’s administrations have clashed over the presented numbers of the outbreak and the course of action. It took both parties a weekend to figure out how to present a united front. But as the power struggle gives way to helping New Yorkers, an inmate at Rikers Island was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. Health officials believe this case isn’t related to the South Bronx and that the person diagnosed—a 63-year-old—already had an underlying health condition that made him susceptible.