2017-09-06 / Front Page

City Tests Water At Rego Park Building For Legionnaires’ Disease

By Liz Goff
The city Department of Health (DOH) is testing drinking water at a Rego Park apartment building for signs of bacteria linked to Legionnaires’ Disease, after two tenants were stricken with the debilitating illness during the past 12 months.

DOH workers recently posted a “Notice To Tenants” in the lobby of Hampton House at 93-10 Queens Boulevard, advising residents that the agency is working with building management to test the water. The notice, posted in English, Spanish and Russian, confirms that two tenants at Hampton House have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ Disease in the last year. The notices advise tenants that the victims were diagnosed six months apart and that one tenant has returned home, 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,” DOH officials said in a statement released on August 22.

DOH officials stressed that the Rego Park building does not have a water tower. Contaminated water towers were cited by the city as the source of a 2015 outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease in the South Bronx that killed 12 people and sickened 120 others.

Building management posted a notice in the lobby on August 22, indicating that it was first advised of the investigation on August 17, and that the landlord in response “immediately retained a top environmental consultant.”

DOH has its own consultant/specialist working at the site, an agency spokesperson said.
“DOH is in the preliminary phase of its investigation,” building management said in its August 22 notice. “So as of this date, there is no evidence that there even is Legionella (bacteria) in the building’s water system, but we want to err on the side of caution.”

Both notices advise tenants that it is safe to drink and use water in the building. The notices also suggest that tenants who are 50 or older, or those with weakened immune systems should take baths instead of showers to avoid ingesting water vapor.

Legionnaires’ Disease is a form of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria found in contaminated water systems.

Victims develop flu-like symptoms including fever, cough and difficulty breathing. The disease, is not contagious, and can only by contracted by breathing water vapor contaminated by the bacteria, the DOH spokesperson said.

The city is obligated to advise tenants when two or more cases of Legionnaires’ Disease are reported within a 12-month period at a single address, the DOH spokesperson said. It is unclear when the two Rego Park tenants contracted the disease.

The city receives, on average, reports of 200 to 400 cases of Legionnaires’ Disease each year, the DOH spokesperson said. The disease is easily treated with available antibiotics.
DOH most recently investigated a water system at the Pomonok Houses in Flushing after two tenants at the NYCHA houses came down with Legionnaires’ Disease.

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