BY JAMES FARRELL
A 15th person has been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease in downtown Flushing, the Department of Health announced on Nov. 2.
However, the agency believes the latest case represents the tail end of the recent cluster of cases found in Flushing. While the recent diagnosis came on Oct. 25—the day after the cluster was publicly identified—the individual began experiencing symptoms “well before a cluster was declared,” according to Commissioner Mary Bassett.
“For this reason, we remain confident that the risk to Flushing residents continues to diminish,” Bassett said. “If by next week, we do not see any additional cases with illness onset later than Oct. 17 in downtown Flushing, we will declare the case investigation over.”
The agency investigated 55 cooling towers within a 1.2 kilometer “area of concern” in downtown Flushing. It has not publicly identified the exact location of the area.
Traces of the Legionella bacteria responsible for the illness were found in 11 of those towers, and owners were issued orders to increase chemical disinfectants. Cultures were taken to determine if the bacteria were still live, and those results are expected to be ready by Nov. 10, DOH said at a recent town hall.
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that is caused by the Legionella bacteria, which can often grow in water. The disease is not spread from human-to-human contact, and in this case, water towers are unaffected—meaning that drinking water and showering should be safe.
Anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, a cough or diarrhea should contact their doctor. Legionnaires’ is serious, but treatable with antibiotics, DOH has said.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.