Albany County Department of Health to Assist State in Emergency Response to Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak

Albany County Executive McCoy today announced that the county Department of Health will be joining the coordinated state response to a growing Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in New York City.

McCoy said Dr. Elizabeth Whalen, Commissioner of the Albany County Department of Health, will join state officials and those from the Centers for Disease Control to monitor the situation and develop an action and response plan. Dr. Whalen will work with the team in the Bronx, where more than 100 cases have been reported and 10 people have died. The disease is not spread person-to-person. Legionella, the bacteria that causes the disease, can be found naturally in creeks, ponds, hot water tanks, air conditioning cooling towers and condensers. According to the DOH high concentrations of the bacteria can be dangerous.           

“Our Health Department is on standby to assist with the state response to this crisis,” said McCoy. “We have some experience in this area and our team is prepared to work with our partners to assist and provide information to the public.     

Earlier this week Gov. Andrew Cuomo deployed State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to the Bronx to examine sites with high concentration of Legionella, the bacteria that causes the disease. The Governor announced Thursday that the state DOH will offer free Legionnaires’ Disease testing statewide for property owners and landlords of buildings of with cooling towers or evaporative condenser units that may be a source of the bacteria.

The testing will be done free of charge at the Wadsworth Center, which is located in Albany County. The Governor also announced that there have been two hotlines set up to facilitate the testing. The numbers are(888)769-7243 or (518) 485-1159. The phone lines will be open from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.