This is not meant to be a grim prediction, but after receiving a number of calls from people who have been affected by the Bronx Legionnaires exposure, it is apparent that the total number of persons that will ultimately become ill from the exposure is likely to be 200 people or more.
In Portugal last year a similar outbreak occurred where five people died, and approximately 300 people were treated for legionella-related illnesses. Given that as of today, New York City has increased the number of deaths from the Bronx exposure from 10 to 12 people (according to Mayor Bill de Blasio in Monday’s press conference) the recent Portugal proportion indicates that the incidence of the reporting and diagnosis of legionnaires in the Bronx case is probably lower than what will ultimately be presented when the claims process inevitably develops.
The common theme that has emerged from the calls received by my office is that physicians are not focusing on legionnaires as a diagnosis. People from Georgia, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere have returned to their homes with what they believe is a serious case of pneumonia. The CDC has said:
“The rise in reported cases reinforces the need for health-care providers in all parts of the United States to test and treat adults with severe community-acquired pneumonia for LD, to be vigilant for health-care–associated LD, and to report legionellosis cases to public health authorities.”
Only because of the frequent news reports and calls from friends and family that live in the effected area, are the victims being notified that they actually may have legionnaires disease. Of the several people that have consulted with me, none of them have been contacted by the locations where the exposure has been confirmed and that they visited.
The local authorities in New York are advancing an educational campaign; however, the people that are travelers to the Bronx area do not benefit from the proximate communication that is being promoted throughout the New York television market. Hotels, hospitals and office buildings have the personal data to notify people who may have been exposed should take an active role in contacting those that were at or near their facilities.