What Is Legionnaires' Disease? New Yorkers Should Watch Out For These Specific Symptoms
OK, Internet people. There has been an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the Bronx, so it's time to pause our Web MD freak-outs and understand what that news really means. The New York Times reported that 31 cases of Legionnaires' disease in New York have been reported in the South Bronx since July 10, and two people have died from the disease so far. This is the largest number of cases of the disease to pop up in two years, and the second occurrence this year, reported The Times. In 2014, there were 225 total cases in the New York boroughs. In December 2014 and January 2015 there were 12 cases of Legionnaires' disease in the Bronx, and there were 10 more cases in Queens in April and May. The Bronx is already an area with high levels of asthma, diabetes, and obesity-related illnesses, according to The Times. It seems highly alarming that a disease would strike one concentrated area in such a small amount of time. So, what is Legionnaires' disease?
Move your mouse away from WebMD and any health symptom blog you might be currently perusing. It's time to take a real look at the facts. According to the CDC, Legionnaires' Disease is a type of pneumonia that is named after a bacterium called Legionella. And that lovely science-y word comes from the original outbreak of Legionnaires', which occurred at an American Legion conference in Philadelphia in 1976.
So, what should you be looking for, exactly? Calm down — these warning signs are not subtle. The CDC noted that cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches, and headaches are all symptoms of Legionnaires'. In other words, you're not going to be feeling much like having a super-fun-party time if you've come down with this stuff. You won't feel like you're coming down with the average flu, according to the CDC.
Also called Pontiac Fever, Legionnaires' is caused by bacteria that grows best in warm water, such as hot tubs, cooling towers, water tanks, and decorative fountains, according to the CDC. And, according to The Times, at least 15 cooling towers in the Bronx area.
Cooling towers extract waste heat from the atmosphere through cooling a water stream, according to the Cooling Technology Institute. Think of them as big vaporizers that provide energy for air conditioners and electric power generation. PIX News 11 reported that cooling towers at Lincoln Hospital and Concourse Plaza in the South Bronx have both been pinpointed as sources of Legionnaires'. Both locations are being disinfected. Residents can continue drinking the water and using the showers in the area; this does not appear to be a plumbing issue, the news site reported.
Anyone can get exposed to Legionella from breathing in mists or a droplet of water that contains the bacteria. This information just makes one more reason why splashing in the hot tub is not cool, dude. But, just for those of you scrolling through with frantic eyes, Legionnaires' cannot be spread from person to person, reported the CDC. The bacteria is carried through warm mist like those in the cooling towers. You can't, say, cough in your friend's face and pass along the bacteria.
Oh, hey, spastic hypochondriac, I see you. And I want you to know that most people who get exposed to Legionella do not get sick from it, according to the CDC. On that same placid note, though, you should always remain cautious (cautious — not crazy), and contact a healthcare professional if you think you've been exposed to Legionella.
So, yes, news of this outbreak is scary, and the numbers associated with it are high. But this information does not spell a death sentence by any means. If you experience any of these pneumonia-like symptoms (again, cough, severe fever, headache), go see a doctor. Let her or him tell you if what you have is cause for concern. Stay safe, stay alert. Stay off of scary, fear-mongering blogs.
Images: Giphy (3); CDC (1)