New York City health officials first learned of a cluster of Legionnaires’ Disease cases in Washington Heights in early July. Since then, eight confirmed cases have more than doubled with the current total inching toward two dozen. The outbreak has already proven fatal with one death, and several confirmed cases still hospitalized.
Health Officials have indicated that the “Lower Washington Heights” outbreak stems from an infected cooling tower. The health department has conducted testing on over 20 cooling towers and have affirmed that drinking water is safe despite the rise in cases.
Early reports show that affected individuals are between the ages of 40-80. The first confirmed death was an individual over 50 with underlying health issues. The health department urges anyone in the area experiencing flu-like symptoms to seek medical treatment.
The outbreak has galvanized local politicians and organizers to demand more transparency and harsher penalties for building owners who fail cooling tower inspections. At present fines for failing a cooling tower inspection are $2,000 for first time offenders, and no more than $5,000 for repeat offenders. Owners whose cooling towers cause deadly outbreaks cannot be charged more then $10,000.
Cooling tower cases are known to be deadly because infected water may become aerosolized over large areas. An infected cooling tower in Pas-de-Calais, France, spread mist carrying Legionella bacteria over 3 miles from the tower. In that case, 18 out of the 86 laboratory confirmed cases were fatal.
Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.