HARLEM – A Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak that sickened dozens of people in Harlem and Washington Heights, killing one, is under control and officials have identified its source, the city Health Department announced Tuesday.
The city hasn’t seen any additional cases of Legionnaires’ Disease in three weeks and has decided to close its investigation of the outbreak, Health Department Commissioner Mary Basset said Tuesday. After testing cooling towers in the area of the outbreak, the strain of Legionella bacteria that sickened 27 people matched a strain found in the cooling tower of the Sugar Hill Project, a high-rise building on St. Nicholas Avenue near West 155th Street.
The Sugar Hill Project cleaned and disinfected its cooling tower on July 13 in compliance with the city, officials said.
“I am relieved that the cluster of Legionnaires’ disease in lower Washington Heights is over,” Bassett said in a statement. “After an extensive investigation, the Health Department has identified the cooling tower at the Sugar Hill Project as the most likely source of the cluster. ”
“In 2015, we worked with the City Council to create the nation’s most comprehensive cooling tower registry and regulations. During this investigation, the registry allowed the Health Department to quickly identify all cooling towers in the affected neighborhood, review their inspection records, obtain samples for rapid laboratory testing and conduct an immediate visual inspection of the tower.”
The city Health Department first notified the public about the outbreak on July 11 and said that eight people had contracted the disease. City officials referred to the outbreak area as “lower Washington Heights,” but did not provide any specific geographic details of that area until Tuesday. A Health Department spokeswoman told Patch in July that the department does not disclose the specific locations of outbreaks.