By GARY CRAIG Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Legionnaires' disease bacteria have been found in the water at an apartment complex in Rochester, N.Y., leading to at least two known cases of the illness. Residents of the Seneca Towers high-rise apartment building have been told not to use the water because of the positive testing.
"To reduce potential health risks to residents, the facility has implemented infection control measures on the recommendation of the state and county health departments, which include a number of water-use restrictions," said Jeffrey Hammond, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Health.
Apartment management notified residents of the testing Friday evening and provided bottled water. Officials with the state and county Health Departments are now working with apartment management to eradicate the bacteria, which are known to breed in hot water areas, said John Ricci, Monroe County Health Department spokesman. The first Legionnaires' case at the apartment building occurred in May, Ricci said. When another resident took ill several weeks ago, the apartment building management tested for the bacteria.
The second case "kind of raised the stakes a little bit," Ricci said. "When you have two cases, you start to wonder whether something is going on in the facility." Legionnaires' is an infectious disease tied to bacteria that long went unidentified. The worst form is a severe pneumonia. The more common form causes flu-like symptoms. The sickness is not spread by person-to-person contact. Typically airborne, it can move through the mist of warm showers.
The high-rise apartment building with hundreds of residents adds a challenge to fighting the bacteria, Ricci said. Environmental consultants are now working to determine the best course of action, he said. Some treatments involve the water being "super heated" or "super chlorinated," Ricci said. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 8,000 and 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires' disease in the country. The illness is detected more in the summer and early fall, but can be present any time of the year. Antibiotics can treat most cases successfully, the CDC said.