1 dead in new Bronx Legionnaires' disease cluster

NEW YORK (AP) — A new Legionnaires' disease cluster discovered in the Bronx has killed one person and sickened 12 others just a month after the largest outbreak of the disease in New York City history, health officials said Wednesday.

The new cluster is centered in the Morris Park neighborhood, more than 6 miles from the epicenter of the previous South Bronx outbreak that killed 12 people and sickened more than 120 others in July and August. City health officials do not believe the clusters are connected.

The earlier outbreak was traced to Legionella bacteria found inside the cooling tower of a Bronx hotel, prompting sweeping new regulations requiring the frequent inspection of the city's cooling towers. All the towers in the Bronx were cleaned in the weeks after the outbreak.

But the bacteria are found frequently in the towers, which use water to cool hot air being ventilated by buildings. Thirty-five cooling towers in Morris Park were sampled last weekend after the first diagnosis of this cluster was reported, officials said. Fifteen tested positive.

They are all being cleaned again, officials said. It has not yet been determined which tower — or towers — caused the new round of infection.

The identity of the deceased has not been released.

Officials tried to preach perspective about the new cluster, noting that all the current patients — including one who has already been released from the hospital — had underlying health concerns. Moreover, officials said that because all displayed symptoms before Sept. 21, which predates the normal seven-day incubation period, there is hope the cluster is already subsiding.

All cooling towers in the city now must be registered and cleaned because of legislation that was hurriedly passed after the previous deadly outbreak. A dispute over the speed and coordination of the cleanup in August became the latest front in the ongoing dispute between the administrations of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

De Blasio traveled to a Morris Park senior center Wednesday to reassure jittery residents that the disease can't be passed person to person and that the city was on top of the cleaning effort. He urged residents who may feel ill to seek medical attention since Legionnaires' disease, a form of pneumonia, is very treatable if caught in time.

"The danger is in not getting medical attention," the mayor said. "That is the singular danger."