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At Least 1 Dead In Long Island Legionnaires' Disease Outbreak

WANTAGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - A cluster of 10 people in one Long Island neighborhood have been diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease.

Medical teams are looking for where the mist or vapor containing the bacteria is coming from.

"I've had it with bad news," said Joe Holden.

As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported, Holden is learning of the deadly Legionnaires outbreak in his neighborhood. All of the victims lived within a half mile of Wantagh Avenue and Old Jerusalem Road on the Levittown-Wantagh border of Nassau County.

"Worried, scared, and it's really close. I live right here in Wantagh, so it's right around the block from me," said homeowner Lauri Oppenheim.

Ten cluster cases, all between 35 and 96 years old. One died. Two remain hospitalized. Seven have been released.

"Legionnaires... I'm thinking where is a water tower around here?" said homeowner Ronald Roaldsen.

"You don't get legionella from drinking water. You have to breathe it in form of vapor or mist," said Nassau County Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein.

It's not spread person to person.

"I'm very health conscious. I have three children. We want to make sure where the source of it is," said homeowner Janice Imbrogno.

The Health Department is now on a mission to find the source. Where did they all shop, or eat, or walk? Were they exposed to the same cooling towers in restaurants, stores or spas? Large air conditioning systems? Hot water heaters or tanks? Decorative fountains?

"We have a whole team of inspectors now walking the neighborhood immediately around the houses. They are very close together," Eisenstein said.

Two to 10 days after exposure, look for cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches, headaches.

Legionnaires responds well to antibiotics.

"Knowledge is power. We all need to take care of these houses we are all living in," said homeowner Connie Scalamandre.

Legionella was discovered and named after an outbreak in 1976 among people who went to a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion. Since then, hundreds have died from the pneumonia-type disease.

"Contact tracing they are already doing is really going to go a long way in identifying the source," said Nassau County legislator Steven Rhoads.

Medical teams are swabbing and sampling on site. There's been a statewide increase in legionella tied to warm weather. No cases are linked to school buildings, and children are rarely impacted by legionella.

The health commissioner reiterates the drinking water supply is safe.

Editor's note: This story was first published Oct. 15.

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