Bacterial source of NYC Legionnaires' cluster unknown

The Health Department held a public meeting in Manhattan Monday evening to speak to residents about a deadly Legionnaires' disease cluster in Lenox Hill. Health officials wanted to tell people in the community that everything is being done to contain the disease.

The first case was diagnosed on June 5. The last one was last Wednesday. The good news is there hasn't been a new case since then. The bad news is the city Health Department doesn't know the source of the bacteria and may never know.

Some folks at the meeting with the city health commissioner are still concerned about the possibility of contracting Legionnaire's disease. Katherine Kennedy told Fox 5 that she is vulnerable because her immune system is already compromised.

Dr. Mary Bassett, the health commissioner, answered questions from residents of Lenox Hill, where seven people contracted Legionnaire's disease. A person older than 90 died. That person had several underlying medical conditions. Four others were treated and released from the hospital. Two are still hospitalized, but doing well. Dr. Bassett said none of them live in the same building, went to the same grocery store or gym or whatnot. The only thing they have in common is Lenox Hill.

At this point, the Health Department believes cooling towers could be the source of the legionella bacteria. Over the weekend, the city ordered the chemical cleaning of 116 cooling towers. The city also tested them for the bacteria. The results are expected in two weeks.

People most at risk are over the age of 50, smokers, or have a compromised immune system. Symptoms are flu-like and include fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, headaches, and diarrhea. Dr. Bassett also said Legionnaire's can be easily treated with antibiotics, if caught early.

Most of the people leaving the meeting told Fox 5 that they felt reassured.

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