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New York City hotel located as source of Legionnaires’ disease outbreak

The historic Opera House Hotel, identified as the source of a deadly spate of Legionnaires’ disease in New York City, said it will go beyond newly imposed regulations in testing its cooling system even as officials declared an end to the outbreak, The Guardian has reported.

On Thursday (20 August) city officials announced an end to the outbreak, which killed 12 people and sickened 128 others. Of those, two had been guests of the South Bronx hotel, according to the New York City department of health and mental hygiene.

Health officials matched the strain of Legionella bacteria found in the hotel’s cooling tower with the strain found in Legionnaires’ patients.

The hotel’s cooling tower and all other cooling towers in the affected area were disinfected and no new patients have contracted Legionnaires’ since 3 August, city officials added. Health experts are still locating and testing all cooling towers in the city.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed an unprecedented law regulating cooling towers throughout the city, requiring building owners to inspect all towers quarterly and to report and disinfect towers with dangerous levels of bacteria.

The Opera House Hotel said that as an extra precaution, it will test its cooling tower every 30 days when it is in operation.

Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia, is caused by inhaling mist infected with the Legionella bacteria. Symptoms include fever, cough, chills and muscle aches.

“Given recent events, we have decided to be especially cautious going forward,” the hotel said in a statement, adding that new tests completed this week confirmed its tower was clear of the bacteria.

“It’s particularly disappointing because our system is two years old, has the most up-to-date technology available and our maintenance plan has been consistent with the regulations that both the city and the state put in place.”

The hotel was formerly the Bronx Opera House, which opened in 1913 and hosted entertainers including the Marx Brothers comedians and illusionist Harry Houdini.


In related news, GlaxoSmithKline has announced plans to resume operations at a North Carolina plant that closed after the discovery of the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease.

The London-based company said the towers had been cleaned and disinfected. About 400 employees were told to stay away until the towers were cleaned.

The 12th Annual Combatting Legionella & Water Treatment conference will take place on 29-30 September at Aston Villa Park in Birmingham.

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