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A public housing complex located in Brownsville, near Brooklyn is under investigation after two Legionnaires’ disease cases were linked to two buildings. They are looking into the water system to determine the source of the illnesses.
New York Health provides recommendations for those living in the complex.
Two residents living in two different buildings in the Langston Hughes Apartments on Sutter Ave have been diagnosed so far within the past 12 months, says a city Health Department spokesman. New York Public Health is working with New York City Housing Authority to obtain and test samples of the buildings’ water system as part of the investigation.
While Legionnaires’ disease is commonly associated with the water systems used in large buildings in the city, two illnesses linked to the same complex is enough to raise an investigation. According to New York Health, about 200 to 500 people across the five boroughs are diagnosed each year with Legionnaires’ disease.
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by inhaling Legionella bacteria. This bacterium is naturally found in freshwater environments such as lakes and streams. It can also grow in human-made water systems to create a health risk.
People become infected when they breath in water droplets containing the microscopic bacteria. They can grow to infectious numbers in large water systems and easily spread when water becomes aerosolized with the bacteria in tow.
Common human-made water systems at risk for spreading Legionella bacteria:
Home air-conditioning system and car systems are not a risk for Legionella growth as they do not use water to cool the air.
Even more rare, but possible, people may become infected by drinking water contaminated with Legionella bacteria if it accidentally reaches someone’s lungs after it is swallowed.
It is unlikely that you can become sick when exposed to someone with Legionnaires’ disease as it is not typically contagious except in extremely rare circumstances.
Most healthy individuals do not become sick after exposed to Legionella bacteria. However, certain groups of people are at higher risk of becoming sick after exposure. Those in the higher risk group are also at greater risk of experiencing more serious illness.
New York Public Health has expressed some recommendations for those in the higher risk category.
The agency recommends those in the higher risk groups living in the complex to use caution with water in their homes, suggesting that they only drink cold water from the tap and avoid creating mist or steam.
Additionally, showers should be avoided. Even cool ones. People of higher risk for Legionnaires’ disease should instead take a bath and are even recommended to not spend time in the bathroom while the tub is filling.
For high-risk individuals. including people ages 50 and older who may be exposed, the city recommends that they avoid showers, even cool showers, and instead take a bath and not spend time in the bathroom while the tub is filling.
The Health Department also recommends drinking only cold water from the tap to avoid creating mist or steam.
Legionnaires’ disease is often underdiagnosed as symptoms are very similar to other types of pneumonia (lung infection). In fact, it can even be indistinguishable on a chest x-ray. Specialized tests are required for that specific diagnosis.
While Legionnaires’ disease can be treated by treating pneumonia symptoms, proper diagnosis allows for specific treatment protocols that will help the patient recover much faster.
Common symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include:
Some people with Legionnaires’ disease may also experience diarrhea, nausea, and/or confusion.
Symptoms usually began around 2 to 14 days after exposure to the bacteria, though in some cases it may take longer.
These symptoms should be taken seriously, as 1 in 10 individuals with Legionnaires’ disease will die.
If you have been exposed to Legionella bacteria, particularly if you fall into the high-risk category, you may have questions about what you should do.
If you develop pneumonia symptoms after being exposed to Legionella or have used a hot tub, spent any nights away from home, stayed in a hospital, or been in an area that has had a Legionella problem within the last two weeks you should inform your doctor or your local health department.
This allows your doctor to include diagnostic tests for Legionella bacteria that may lead to a more accurate diagnosis. That diagnosis may also provide information to investigators attempting to traceback the source of infection clusters.
If you have been exposed to Legionella bacteria and have become sick with Legionnaires’ disease, you may have a legal case.
Legionnaires’ disease is a preventable illness that often happens under negligent circumstances. Proper maintenance protocols are not only ethical, but also mandated by most local and state governments. When maintenance processes lapse or testing procedures are ignored, Legionella bacteria can grow in harmful and infectious numbers. These protocols are put into place to keep people safe.
When people become sick from negligence, they should be held accountable.
The Lange Law Firm, PLLC is experienced at helping families with cases just like this. Reach out to our team for a free consultation. Call (833) 330-3663 or click here to fill out our online submission form and someone will reach out to you.
By: Heather Van Tassell