Emerging Infectious Diseases (Nov 2017)
Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreaks and Cooling Towers, New York City, New York, USA
The incidence of Legionnaires’ disease in the United States has been increasing since 2000. Outbreaks and clusters are associated with decorative, recreational, domestic, and industrial water systems, with the largest outbreaks being caused by cooling towers. Since 2006, 6 community-associated Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks have occurred in New York City, resulting in 213 cases and 18 deaths. Three outbreaks occurred in 2015, including the largest on record (138 cases). Three outbreaks were linked to cooling towers by molecular comparison of human and environmental Legionella isolates, and the sources for the other 3 outbreaks were undetermined. The evolution of investigation methods and lessons learned from these outbreaks prompted enactment of a new comprehensive law governing the operation and maintenance of New York City cooling towers. Ongoing surveillance and program evaluation will determine if enforcement of the new cooling tower law reduces Legionnaires’ disease incidence in New York City.