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1 dead, 6 sickened by Legionnaires’ disease in NYC, officials say

Legionnaires’ disease has killed one person and sickened six others over the past 11 days in Manhattan, New York City health officials said Friday.

Health officials said the deceased person, who was at least 90 years old and had other health issues, was among seven people who contracted the respiratory ailment in the Lenox Hill section on the East Side.

Of the remaining patients, four are hospitalized and two others have been treated and released from hospitals.

“The Health Department has identified an increase and cluster of Legionnaires’ disease cases in the Lenox Hill area,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett, in a news release. “We have begun an investigation to determine the source of the cluster, focusing on cooling towers in the neighborhood. I urge individuals in this area with respiratory symptoms to seek medical attention right away.”

The disease, which experts say is an acute form of pneumonia, is contracted when water droplets carrying the bacteria is breathed into the lungs.

It generally cannot be spread from person to person, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

“Symptoms include fever, cough, chills, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear two to 10 days after significant exposure to Legionella bacteria,” city health officials said. “Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as cooling towers, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks, and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.”

The apparent outbreak comes two years after a similar scenario where as many as a dozen people died in the Bronx from Legionnaires’ disease. Those deaths prompted the passage of Local Law 77, a measure designed to curb the growth of the bacteria, Legionella, in cooling towers, officials said.

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