Legionnaires' disease detected in NYCHA housing complex

Antoine Mason says he can't trust the water in his own home.

“I took the day off today to take my kids to the doctor to make sure none of us get sick from it. Thank God we don't have any bad news yet. They're going to check the blood work to make sure there's none of that in our bloodstream, but let's pray to God that's not the case,” Mason said.


What you need to know

  • Two residents of the Langston Hughes homes in Brownsville have been diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease in the past year
  • City officials say the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is working with the New York City Housing Authority to conduct testing at the complex
  • Symptoms of Legionnaires' disease include fever, chills, muscle aches and coughing
  • Legionella, a type of bacteria that grows in warm water and causes Legionnaires' disease, thrives in cooling towers, hot tubs, hot water tanks and humidifiers

On Tuesday, the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced it will evaluate the water system at the Langston Hughes Apartments in Brownsville after two residents were diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease in the past year.

Officials say the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is working with the New York City Housing Authority to sample the water system at the apartment complex to look for legionella — a form of bacteria that grows in warm water and causes Legionnaires' disease.

Symptoms of the disease include fever, chills, muscle aches and coughing. The disease can be treated with antibiotics.

“Legionella is one of the more serious forms of pneumonia and can cause serious illness and death in people who are most vulnerable. We want to make sure we protect people from any adverse effects,” says Dr. Waleed Javaid, director of infection prevention and control at Mount Sinai.

The bacteria thrives in cooling towers, hot tubs, hot water tanks and humidifiers. Infectious disease experts say Legionnaires' disease is different from other types of pneumonia because it is completely preventable.

“Just like vaccines would prevent us from getting it [COVID-19] or the flu, better water management will help us prevent infections in our communities,” Javaid said.

Adults aged 50 or older have a higher risk of developing the disease, as do cigarette smokers and people with chronic lung disease. A health department spokesperson says residents can still use and drink water, but the most vulnerable should take extra precautions.

That includes taking a bath instead of a shower, minimizing time in the bathroom, filling the sink slowly while washing dishes and using cold water for tea, coffee and cooking.

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