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2 residents die in Legionnaires’ outbreak at Manhattan nursing home, authorities say

The New York Daily News - 9/15/2022

At least two residents of an upper Manhattan nursing home have died with Legionnaires’ disease, and six more suspected cases of the severe pneumonia have been identified at the facility, the state Health Department said Thursday.

The outbreak at the Amsterdam Nursing Home in Morningside Heights has led authorities to launch an onsite review, according to the Health Department, and testing of the water is ongoing. Seven of the eight suspected cases emerged between Aug. 23 and Sept. 5, the government said.

The 409-bed facility has reported four total deaths, according to the Health Department, with two connected to confirmed Legionnaires’ cases and two to suspected cases.

The nursing home said one of the deaths dated to last year, and that there were seven cases total. But the Health Department described eight, all recent, without specifying dates.

Gov. Hochul said city and state officials are working together to probe the situation, and noted that it was not clear whether Legionnaires’ infections caused the deaths, or were incidentally related.

“Our Department of Health is fully engaged,” Hochul said at a Thursday news conference in lower Manhattan. “We’re checking the water sources, the pipes. Everything is under full investigation.”

The people who died were not immediately identified. Three residents were hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease on Thursday, the nursing home said.

The Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, was identified at the nursing home over the past few days, said Jeff Jacomowitz, a spokesman for the facility. It was not clear how the bacteria reached the nursing home’s water supply.

The bacteria can spread to people from building water systems through small breathable droplets, or, in rare cases, in drinking water that accidentally reaches someone’s lungs after it is swallowed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Legionnaires’ disease has an estimated fatality rate of 10% and does not easily spread from person to person. Most years, New York City records between 200 and 300 cases of the disease, according to the city Health Department.

At the Amsterdam Nursing Home, residents have not been instructed to avoid the water, Jacomowitz said. But the nursing home has provided bottled water to residents as staff awaits test results, he said.

“They’re not telling them not to use the water,” Jacomowitz said Thursday. “But at the same time, they’re being proactive.”

One resident, Claire Michaels, 92, said Thursday afternoon that she did not know of any issues with the water, and that three of her friends did not, either.

“I have not heard of anything,” Michaels said by phone.

The nursing home also said it was sending robocalls to the families of residents.

The Health Department said water restrictions — in which filters are placed on faucets, and water bottles and bathing kits are provided — have been implemented, but only in the facility’s west wing, where all the suspected cases have been identified.

“Water restrictions will remain in place until additional water culture testing for Legionella has been completed and no additional cases are identified,” Jeffrey Hammond, a Health Department spokesman, said in a statement.

The Legionnaires’ outbreak at the nursing home comes on the heels of extended water challenges at a New York City Housing Authority complex in Manhattan’s East Village.

The city said last week that a possible occurrence of Legionella had been identified in water tested at Jacob Riis Houses, a revelation that emerged after arsenic appeared to turn up in tests of taps.

The city ultimately said it believed neither substance was in the water at the complex, and blamed faulty testing for the scare.

But residents at Riis Houses went a week without tap water as officials ran tests, and tenants’ trust in the Housing Authority eroded.

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