New York has experienced their worst outbreak of Legionnaires' disease which has already resulted in 12 deaths and over 100 people becoming infected. The disease is caused by breathing small water droplets contaminated with a type of bacteria known as Legionella.
Although many people may be exposed to Legionella and not become sick, there are groups who are especially vulnerable. These include the elderly, people with chronic lung disease, current and former smokers, and anyone with a weakened or suppressed immune system.
The outbreak in the South Bronx is believed to be associated with people breathing mists from contaminated cooling towers located all around the borough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with city and state health inspectors to monitor these cooling towers. So far, a number of cooling towers in the area have been found to harbor the Legionella bacteria.
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), "Cooling towers, evaporative condensers, and fluid coolers use a fan to move air through a recirculated water system. This allows a considerable amount of water vapor and sometimes droplets to be introduced into the surroundings, despite the presence of drift eliminators designed to limit droplet release. This water may be in the ideal temperature range for Legionnaires' disease bacteria (LDB) growth, 20°-50°C (68°-122°F). Good maintenance is necessary, both to control LDB growth, and for effective operation."
The outbreak in New York has many facility managers across Texas checking the maintenance and operations of cooling towers located at their facilities. "A similar outbreak could happen here in Texas if cooling towers are not properly maintained,"
said Hollis L. Horner, President of Indoor Environmental Consultants, Inc. "Cooling towers, hot tubs, decorative fountains, hot water tanks, and large plumbing systems are all possible locations for the presence and amplification of Legionella bacteria."
The environmental and building science professionals at Indoor Environmental Consultants provide Legionella sampling and consulting services. These services can be instrumental in preventing an outbreak. Testing is also critical to identify sources of an outbreak if one has already occurred.
To learn more about these services,