News broke this week that there are two confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease linked to the Bronx apartments by Mitchell-Lama Properties. Both of the confirmed cases are residents of the Tracey Towers in Norwood. The local health authorities have launched an investigation into the outbreak and have put the building’s tenants on notice. At this point, it appears the health department is treating these cases as a Legionnaires’ outbreak.
According to reports, the city’s Health Department says it’s evaluating the water systems at the Tracey Towers on West Moshulu Parkway in the Norwood neighborhood at this time. The agencies confirmed that “tenants can still use and drink water except for showering because it could create a mist and residents are urged to take baths instead.”
At a meeting Tuesday night inside the building’s community room, Ricky Wong, director of Community Affairs at DOH, informed the tenants of the department’s plan to start testing the building’s water for the bacteria. He said that water testing could “potentially happen at the earliest by the end of this week.” It could take a few weeks for these results to come back.
A DOH spokesman said the agency and building management “are promptly alerting residents of the situation, and providing guidance on how to prevent exposure, especially for those at higher risk for disease.” They emphasize that the water is still drinkable, though DOH officials will be alerting residents they consider high-risk to take extra precaution.
Some additional recommendations from DOH includes:
- Individuals at higher-risk include those aged 50 or older (especially if they smoke cigarettes), people with chronic lung disease, and those with compromised immune systems. People in these groups should take the following precautions:
- Do not take a shower, even a cool shower—since it could create water vapor (mist). Instead, take a bath, but fill the tub slowly. Try to minimize your time in the bathroom while the tub is filling.
- It is fine to wash dishes, but fill the sink slowly to avoid creating mist.
- It is fine to drink cold water from the tap, but start with cold water when heating water for tea, coffee or cooking.
- Tenants do not need to wear a mask.
- It is important to continue to wash your hands
At an unrelated news conference in Bronx, Mayor Bill de Blasio said “it is a reality in this city that every year, just in the normal course of things, we have 100, 200 Legionnaires’ cases. What we typically see is they’re identified, they’re addressed, people get the healthcare they need, and the situation is resolved. That’s what I hope and believe is going to happen at Tracey Towers. It also is a day-to-day, hour-to-hour, thing as they investigate. As we learned from the past they literally have ‘disease detectives’ who go in to try to identify the specific source and make sure it is addressed and resolved.”
Legionnaires’ disease is routinely found in water cooling towers. The largest outbreak happened in 2015 when it claimed at least ten lives across the city.