Approximately one year ago in response to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at five buildings in the Bronx, New York City passed the most comprehensive and toughest law in the country for the monitoring of cooling towers and their mandated maintenance. Officials claim that there is 100% compliance with no new outbreaks of the disease reported in the South Bronx, where the community was taken by surprise and 12 people died and more than 120 were sickened.
In 1976, the American public became aware of this previously unrecognized disease, when 221 out of the more than 2,000 people who attended an American Legion convention in Philadelphia became sick with a form of atypical pneumonia that caused chills, fever, a cough and other flu-like symptoms.
Of the 221 people who caught the disease, 34 died. The disease was named Legionnaires’ disease, and the bacteria that causes it was named Legionella pneumophilia, popularly known as just Legionella.
Over the years, many people forgot about the disease, but it didn’t go away. There have been outbreaks in Michigan, Louisiana, Los Angeles and Virginia during the 1980s and 90s, and just recently an outbreak in Hopkins, Minnesota affected 20 people and caused one death.
In New York, the first occurrence happened in February 2015 at Co-op City in the north Bronx. In July and August of that same year, the disease popped up again affecting at least 110 people in Lincoln Hospital, the Concourse Plaza shopping mall, the Opera House Hotel and several other buildings, all in the southern part of the Bronx. A dozen people died, all of whom also had suffered from other medical conditions. . The authorities traced the problem of the South Bronx outbreak to the cooling towers of the affected buildings, and ordered that they be decontaminated within 14 days. And in late September 2015, one person died and 15 people fell ill in Morris Park in the Bronx with cooling towers again suspected as the cause.