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Team From CDC Addresses Bronx Legionnaires' Outbreak; Case Also Reported In Rockland

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was in town on Friday to meet with state and city officials regarding an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the South Bronx.

"We need all hands on deck, and getting help from the CDC is a huge step in combating this disease that is hurting the South Bronx," Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement.

New York State on Saturday will also send out health teams to perform more tests on cooling towers, as WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported.

"Tomorrow we are starting a massive testing effort in that immediate vicinity where we will actually have a coordinated testing program where we will send people out to test these cooling towers," Cuomo said.

Meanwhile Friday, a Legionnaires' case has also been reported in Rockland County.

Around 11:30 a.m. Friday, the Chromalloy gas turbine engine manufacturing and repair service in Orangeburg learned that an employee at its facility was diagnosed with Legionnaires', according to a news release.

It was not clear whether the employee was exposed to Legionella bacteria at the Chromalloy facility, but the company has begun working with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and consultants to take action, the release said.

The Chromalloy facility has been shut down as a precaution, and a biocide will be injected into the cooling towers at the facility to destroy any bacteria if they exist. Tests will be conducted on Monday.

Legionnaires' Case Discovered In Rockland County

The Rockland County Department of Health said the Orangeburg case was a single incident had not a cluster.

As CBS2's Jessica Schneider reported, the sparse details were cause for concern in quiet Rockland County neighborhoods where people were trying not to panic.

"Just to be on the safe side, we're going to get our cooling system checked," said are resident Trish White.

Back in the Bronx, since its appearance late last month, health officials said 10 people have died and more than 100 people have been diagnosed with the disease, a form of pneumonia caused by breathing in mist contaminated with the Legionella bacteria.

Team From CDC To Meet With Officials Over Legionnaires' Outbreak In The Bronx

"New York City is experiencing the worst outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in its history," City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in a statement Friday.

The outbreak has been traced to the cooling towers, which release mist. Five towers in the South Bronx tested positive for the bacteria and have since been decontaminated.

Team From CDC To Meet With Officials Over Legionnaires' Outbreak In The Bronx

City officials issued an order Thursday for owners and operators of cooling towers throughout the city to now disinfect them if they haven't done so in the last 30 days.

The disease is easily diagnosed and can be treated with antibiotics but poses a serious risk to anyone with an underlying medical condition. Officials said all 10 people who died had other complicating conditions.

Symptoms of Legionnaires' disease include headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea. Symptoms appear two to 10 days after exposure to Legionella bacteria.

Bassett said Friday that the frequency of diagnoses is decreasing "as well as the number of emergency department visits for pneumonia in the South Bronx."

NYC Health Commissioner Believes Legionnaires Outbreak Has Crested

"We have fewer new cases, people are seeking care promptly and getting treatment promptly," she said. "We're optimistic that we've seen the worst of this outbreak, and that our remediation efforts are having an impact."

The Health Department ordered that within the next 14 days, all buildings with cooling towers that haven't been tested in the last 30 days be tested and any towers found contaminated be disinfected. Failure to comply is a misdemeanor.

Mayor Bill de Blasio stressed Thursday that the mandated tests are a precautionary measure and the city is "confident that we have already disinfected the source of this outbreak.''

NYC Health Commissioner Says City Has 'Good Handle' On Legionnaires' Outbreak

"We've never seen a situation like this before in New York City or, of course, these efforts would have been in place in advance,'' the mayor said.

Cuomo said the state Department of Health would offer free testing of cooling towers and evaporative condenser units, where the bacteria also can hide. The offer is good until October.

"Providing free testing should help restore the public's confidence that government is taking every precaution possible," Cuomo said in a statement. "This expanded testing will also provide the state valuable data as to the amount of Legionella in systems across the state and any potential dangers in surrounding neighborhoods in the Bronx or other parts of the state."

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said that while this is clearly a "severe" outbreak in the Bronx, it is a statewide issue.

"The steps that the governor has taken will not only address the health crisis, but also any confidence crisis," Zucker said.

Bassett did everything but roll her eyes at that statement and then politely but firmly ask to be heard during a press conference Friday, WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported.

Bassett was blunt saying, "We are optimistic and retain the confidence that I've expressed in the past that we have a good handle on the outbreak in the Bronx."

City Orders Cooling Towers Cleaned

However, the first lawsuit has been filed against the city in connection with the outbreak.

Attorney Adam Slater said his client, 36-year-old Marvin Montgomery was healthy before he contracted Legionnaire's disease.

He said Montgomery distributed flyers at city-run Lincoln Hospital, one of the contaminated sites, WCBS 880's Ginny Kosola reported.

"We know he was there within 10 days of being diagnosed with Legionnaire's disease -- the incubation period," Slater said. "We think Lincoln Hospital breached its duty to adequately check the environmental systems for Legionella."

In addition to money, he wants accountability from New York City officials, CBS2's Alice Gainer reported.

"He's irate. He feels they had notice of this and they were just dragging their feet," Slater said. "They just did not move quickly enough."

A spokesman for City Comptroller Scott Stringer's office said they will carefully review the lawsuit.

Man Diagnosed With Legionnaire's Disease Files Lawsuit Against NYC

And some industry experts say the scope of the city's order is unrealistic.

Anthony DeVito, vice president of engineering for Chemicals Specifics, Inc. in Maspeth, said cleaning cooling towers is expensive and labor intensive. He estimates there are as many as 10,000 cooling towers citywide.

"There's a limited number of companies that do this kind of work, so as you can imagine, we're just getting swamped with panicky calls," he told WCBS 880's Marla Diamond.

He said finding enough Legionella bacteria in a cooling tower to make someone sick is rare.

The illness gets its name from a 1976 outbreak at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia when 34 people died.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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