New York City

Legionnaires' Disease Kills 1, Sickens Another at Queens Apartment Building

An elderly person living at a Queens high-rise died after contracting Legionnaires' disease, city health officials said. 

A second person living at Parker Towers, on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, also contracted the pneumonia-like disease but recovered, according to a New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene spokesman. Both cases were reported within a two-month period.

"The Health Department is working with the building management to test the building’s hot water plumbing system," the spokesman said. "The building does not have a cooling tower. While the risk of infection to tenants is very low, as part of our protocol, the Department will notify residents about the investigation and next steps. 

The spokesman said that the building's management, The Jack Parker Corporation, has already notified other tenants. News 4 has reached out to the company via email seeking comment. 

Health department officials will be on site answering questions in the coming days will be testing the water. The spokesman said it was still safe to drink or wash with, but as a precaution, people older than 50, those with chronic lung conditions and people with compromised immune systems should opt for baths over showers and only drink cold water from their taps. 

Another important distinction: the Parker Towers do not have cooling towers, which are common breeding grounds for the Legionella bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease. 

Still, the cases have the residents at the towers on edge. Denise Innes said despite the precautions, she's afraid to use her apartment's water. 

"It makes my stomach sick," she said. "I feel like I don't know, I'm nervous now to use the water."

This outbreak comes after two more people contracted Legionnaires' at a building in Flushing

Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia and is treatable and not contagious. Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

There are 200 to 400 cases of the disease in New York City every year, according to a 2016 report by the health department.

Clusters of Legionnaires’ have cropped up around the city in recent years. This case is not a cluster, as more than three people have not been infected.

In July, the Health Department concluded its investigation into a Legionnaires’ disease cluster in Manhattan, ordering dozens of cooling towers to be disinfected after one person died and six others were hospitalized in June.

Days before that, a Harlem police officer contracted the disease, apparently at his or her precinct in Harlem.

In the summer of 2015, the largest Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in New York City history sickened more than 120 people, killing 12 of them, in the Morris Park neighborhood of the Bronx.

Another person died after a separate cluster emerged in the neighborhood in the following weeks; more than a dozen were sickened in the second cluster.

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