Recent news reports indicate that the Seneca Towers apartment complex, in Rochester, New York, is the location of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. In May, a resident became ill with Legionnaires’ disease, and a few weeks ago, a second case was confirmed. This has prompted investigations by state and county health departments. Residents have been warned of the situation and were told not to use the hot water. Meanwhile, bottled water has been provided to residents. Testing has confirmed the presence of Legionella in the Seneca Towers. Now, health departments are assisting facilities management in developing a remediation plan.
This is the second outbreak in New York to be reported in the past month. A recent outbreak in a Kingston retirement community is also under investigation. The Seneca Towers and other large, high rise apartment buildings can provide suitable environments for Legionella propagation. Oftentimes, the sheer size of a building can mean its water system is more complex and therefore more prone to maintenance issues. If portions of the system are stagnant, if temperatures are inconsistent and not hot enough to kill Legionella, or if a section is vulnerable to infiltration of bacteria, Legionella may become a problem. With larger buildings, it becomes more difficult to maintain hot water temperatures at the more distal ends of the system. Over the next few weeks, we will likely learn more about the source of this outbreak, why these residents became sick, and who is responsible.