Health officials hunting for the source of that deadly outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease in the South Bronx have confirmed where it began. A location that was long suspect of being the origin. NY1's Erin Billups filed this report.
The month-long saga affecting the South Bronx ended with the City Health Department confirming the Legionnaire's outbreak began with a cooling tower atop a boutique hotel, the Opera House on E. 149th Street.
"Today I'm happy to declare that the outbreak is over," said Health Commissioner Mary Bassett.
"There really was a very large clustering of cases within a one mile radius around this place which would not be expected by chance," said Dr. Jay Varma, Deputy Commissioner for Disease Control.
Experts here at this city lab worked with teams from the state and the Centers for Disease Control to link the strain taken from 25 legionnaires patients.
"We found that every single patient isolate that was associated with the outbreak matched every isolate we got from the Opera House Hotel," said Dr. Jennifer Rakeman, Assistant Commissioner & Director at the NYC Public Health Lab.
The health commissioner says the Opera House Hotel has been fully cooperative- its tower was disinfected on August first, there have been no new cases of since August third.
On August 6th.. the president of the cleaning company that disinfected the cooling tower was so confident it was cleaned, he brought NY1 in to take a look.
With 14 other towers testing positive in the South Bronx, it's not fully clear why it was the Opera House strain that spread, but Bassett says there may not have been enough disinfectant in the water.
"We do know that the levels of biocide in the Opera House Hotel cooling tower were low," said Bassett.
The hotel called the findings "disappointing," but promised to go beyond the new regulations requiring regular maintenance and quarterly inspections, by testing its tower every 30 days.
Commissioner Bassett says the new rules may not prevent Legionnaires' cases completely- because the bacteria is ever-present, but says it will help.
"A cooling tower that is regularaly disinfected and well-maintained is much less likely to emit contaminated water mist," said Bassett.
One hundred twenty-eight people got sick with Legionnaires' disease—and 12 died.
In a normal year the city sees 200 to 300 sporadic cases of Legionnaires'.