In August of 2015, 133 Bronx residents contracted Legionnaires’ disease, an outbreak which ultimately resulted in the death of 16 individuals. This incident would be the worst recorded outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in New York state’s history however now, more than two years later, New York continues to show problems as 2017 posts a record number of cases, including a far larger rate of Legionnaires’ disease than just about every other state per capita.
New York once again led the United States for reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease in 2017 with a total of 1,009 cases reported to the CDC. And far from the situation improving, this rate of contracting and reported cases signifies a 38 percent increase compared to 2016. As such, there are a few key suggestions that advocates and critics have put forward. According to the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease (APLD) Spokesperson Daryn Cline, “We are convinced that any meaningful reduction in Legionnaires’ disease in New York requires a focus on the complete water distribution system that supplies our homes and workplaces—from source to consumption,”
Specifically, this kind of focus might include a review of regulations which can be too centered on building equipment and do not highlight the issue of the Legionella bacteria entering the buildings from public water and distribution systems as a whole. Indeed as the Vice President of Plant Operations at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center John Letson puts it, “In order to keep people safe, especially those with compromised immune systems and patients receiving out-patient care, more must be done to remove the threat of Legionella in our public water.”
In addition, another method for improving New York state’s current approach towards Legionella and Legionnaires’ disease as a whole might include a renewed focus on individual cases of Legionnaires’ disease which makes up the vast majority of recorded cases nationally. This would be in contrast with the current approach, which some argue focuses too heavily on building equipment which represents only a small percentage of reported cases, i.e. the major outbreaks which garner news and press releases.
Finally, associations like the APLD have been advocating for each case of Legionnaires’ disease to go through an investigation in order to help prevent the disease from infecting others in the future. This could and would include more resources to be utilized to try and understand the effects of aging infrastructure, flooding and heavy rain and how they are impacting the increase in reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease. By reviewing some of these suggestions and implementing a plan for addressing how regulators and individuals should respond to reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease, there is hope that 2018 will not be like 2017 and will instead mark a reduction in reported cases.
Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.