The two residents of Hampton House, located on 93-10 Queens Boulevard, were diagnosed six months apart, though it’s unclear when they were infected. The disease is a type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria found in water systems. One resident has been released while the other remains hospitalized.
“While the risk of infection to tenants is very low, as part of the routine protocol to assess potential sources of Legionnaires’ disease, the Health Department is working with the building management to test the building’s water supply,” said a spokesperson for the agency.
After the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the South Bronx two years ago, the Department of Health (DOH) implemented a plan to reduce the risk of outbreak across the city.
Steps taken include tougher cooling tower regulations, more inspections and quicker community notification. Hampton House does not have a cooling tower.
In a flier posted in the lobby by building management, they announced that they have “retained a top environmental consultant” and have been in touch with a contractor in case there are problems found in the testing.
"DOH is still in the preliminary phase of the investigation,” the flier also noted. “So as of this date, there is no evidence that there even is Legionella in the buildings water system, but we want to err on the side of caution."
Tenants are notified when two or more cases are reported at a single address within a 12-month period.
On Tuesday, August 22, the building’s landlord notified residents of the investigation, followed the next day by a representative from DOH going door-to-door to inform residents. On Thursday, August 24, Health Department officials and building management held a tenant meeting to brief residents about the investigation.
There are 200 to 400 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the city each year. The disease is not contagious and is treatable with antibiotics.
Though residents can still use and drink water, there are some groups that are at a higher risk of getting Legionnaires’ disease. Those with chronic lung disease, weakened immune systems and those 50 or older, especially if they smoke cigarettes, should take certain precautions.
DOH advises that those groups should take a bath instead of a shower, even a cool shower, to eliminate the water vapor. Additional ways to reduce water vapor include using the cold water from the tap, and when washing dishes slowly filling the sink.
“People only get sick by breathing in water vapor containing the bacteria,” said the spokesperson. “Adults with flu-like symptoms, fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should seek immediate medical attention.”