By Carmen Glover
As the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease widened in the South Bronx, New York, claiming ten lives and sickening 100 residents, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr appealed to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to call in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday, August 6, to investigate and provide specialized assistance.
Stating that the level of anxiety “is very high,” Diaz solicited intervention from the governor, as Mayor Bill de Blasio downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak, while City Health Commissioner Mary Bassett insisted that the city was taking the issue “very seriously.”
“During the course of our actions fighting the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in the Bronx, it has been revealed that there is no inspection mechanism for coolant systems, rooftop water tanks and other standing water infrastructure that could be a breeding ground for this disease and others,” Diaz said in a statement, “The city must create a new inspection system for these systems just as we inspect other critical systems such as elevators.”
Legionnaires’ disease has infected and killed more people in the Bronx than the three people who died from Ebola disease in the entire United States in 2014 when a national effort was coordinated to keep the nation safe.
The disease was traced to cooling towers in five area buildings, including Lincoln Hospital, which treats hundreds of patients daily for ailments ranging from mental health disease, drug addiction to respiratory disease. The South Bronx is considered an epicenter for asthma in the city. Governor Cuomo has indicated that business owners in the city and state can request for their cooling towers to be tested for contamination, at no cost to them.
On Monday, August 3, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, hosted members from the New York City Health Department in an informational session at the Bronx Museum of the Arts on the Grand Concourse, where worried residents sought answers and reassurance that they would be safe.
In the meantime, de Blasio has instructed a response team to make emergency calls to building owners and property managers in the Bronx to make sure that wherever cooling towers are located, they are cleaned within 14 days.
This new outbreak comes on the heels of a similar Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak in Co-op City in the North East Bronx, last year, which left residents violently ill. So far, the residents who have died from the disease in the South Bronx have been elderly and had pre-existing health conditions which weakened their immune systems.
However, because the disease is spread from mists in the air, every person who walks in the South Bronx can potentially inhale the deadly mist and contract the disease, which made the mayor’s refusal to seek assistance from the CDC a head-scratcher for nervous residents.
Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s Disease travels in the air and is often concentrated in cooling towers from which the infected mist sprays into the atmosphere. The disease triggers a severe form of pneumonia that is especially brutal for residents who have pre-existing health conditions such as respiratory disease, those who are very young or elderly.
As the new round of the outbreak spreads in the South Bronx, the first lawsuit was filed against the city. Residents who were sickened in Co-op City filed lawsuits early this year.–OnPointPress.net.