Death toll in New York Legionnaires’ outbreak rises to 12

NEW YORK: Two more people in the Bronx have died of Legionnaires’ disease, bringing the total of fatalities to 12 in the largest outbreak of the disease in New York City history, officials said Monday.


There are now 113 reported cases of Legionnaires’ in the Bronx, and cooling towers in 15 buildings have tested positive for the legionella bacteria, officials said.

While cleaning crews crisscrossed the Bronx, the continued tension between state and city governments threaten to undermine officials’ expressions of confidence that the outbreak is tapering off.

The outbreak has become the city’s most significant public health crisis since last fall’s Ebola scare. For more than a month now, cases of Legionnaires’ — a form of pneumonia especially dangerous for the elderly and for people with underlying health issues — have been reported throughout a section of the South Bronx, the city’s poorest neighborhood.

‘‘We are dealing with a new set of realities we have never experienced that we have never encountered before in this city,’’ said Mayor Bill de Blasio, who added the city has had to create ‘‘a playbook’’ on the fly.

The identities of the deceased were not released.

Officials said that all but one of the 12 fatalities was more than 40 years old and all of them had underlying health problems. Because the disease has a 10-day incubation period there can be a lag in reporting cases, but de Blasio said Monday that city health officials believe there hasn’t been a new diagnosis since Aug. 3.

He and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito introduced legislation that mandates inspections of cooling towers, rooftop structures used to cool large buildings. They eject a warm mist that can carry the bacteria.

As de Blasio spoke at the afternoon news conference, New Yorkers saw a split-screen image on their TVs that likely did not inspire much faith in the level of coordination between the city and state governments.

While de Blasio spoke at City Hall, Governor Andrew Cuomo held his own news conference at his New York City office on the same subject, yet delivering different information.

At his, Cuomo said state teams that have been inspecting cooling towers in the Bronx had discovered the bacteria in more buildings. But unaware of that, de Blasio said the bacteria had only been located in 12 towers, not the updated total of 15.