Officials Expand Efforts to End Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak


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Officials from the New York State Department of Health collected water samples from a cooling tower at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx as they searched for legionella bacteria.

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Philip Kamrass/New York State Governor’s Office

New York City and state officials continued to step up efforts on Saturday to thwart the spread of Legionnaires’ disease, even as an outbreak of the airborne illness in the South Bronx appeared to be waning.

At a news conference at the city Office of Emergency Management, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that 108 people have been infected since the onset of the outbreak in July — up from a tally of 101 on Friday. But the new diagnoses were made several days ago, the mayor said. He expressed optimism that diagnoses and emergency room visits were declining.

“The good news is this outbreak is clearly tapering off,” Mr. de Blasio said. Ten people have died of the disease, with the most recent death reported on Thursday. It has been the largest outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the city’s history.

The mayor also outlined a plan involving over 200 city workers to locate, evaluate and disinfect water cooling towers, the source of the outbreak. The inspections revealed five new towers that tested positive for legionella bacteria – including one at Samuel Gompers High School – in addition to the five that had been identified originally. The city said there were no indications that anyone had been sickened at the five newly identified sites. All 10 towers have been disinfected.

On Saturday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo deployed about 150 trained workers to do more testing with officials from the city and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state health commissioner, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, said that the state’s help came in response to a request from his city counterpart, Dr. Mary T. Bassett.

“Today we’re putting boots on the ground to safeguard the public health and bolster the confidence of a hard-hit community,” Mr. Cuomo said. “We have one simple message for the people of the Bronx: We are here to help.”

Officials seemed to reach for an easing of tensions on Saturday, after a bout of sniping and perceived slights over whether the city or the state was responding to the outbreak more effectively.

The only hint of this week’s turf fight came when the mayor, a Democrat like the governor, fielded a question about Mr. Cuomo’s assertion that the state has been leading the response to the outbreak.

“We took charge on day one,” said Mr. de Blasio. “We took matters into our own hands and that’s why this situation is changing.”

The city plans to support legislation aimed at curtailing the spread of legionella through regulations requiring registration, testing and cleaning of cooling towers.



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