Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY 9:14 p.m. EDT July 29, 2015
New York City's Department of Health is investigating an outbreak in the Bronx of deadly Legionairre's disease, city officials said Wednesday.
Since July 10, there have been 31 cases reported and two people have died from the ailment, caused by a bacteria known as Legionella, according to the city's Department of Health. Legionella often is traced to plumbing systems.
City officials are "concerned" about the outbreak, health commissioner Mary Bassett said in a statement.
"We are conducting a swift investigation to determine the source of the outbreak and prevent future cases," Bassett said.
Early detection is key, she said. Mayor Bill de Blasio echoed that.
"Thank God this is a disease that can be treated," CBS New York quoted the mayor as saying.
Legionnaire's causes flu-like symptoms, such as coughing, fever, chills, aches, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea. Cases can usually be traced to plumbing systems such as those found with whirlpool spas, hot tubs, hot water tanks and cooling towers.
City officials were investigating and testing water from cooling towers in the south Bronx area of the outbreak.
The Department of Health is asking that people with respiratory symptoms seek medical attention promptly. Those at risk are people middle-aged or older, smokers and those with lung diseases.
Legionnaire's is a severe form of pneumonia, according to The Mayo Clinic. People can only become ill by breathing in contaminated water vapor, such as mist from faucets, showers or whirlpools.The disease is not spread by human contact.
The illness first grabbed public attention in 1976 in Philadelphia, after several men attending an American Legion state convention became sickened with a mysterious illness and died.