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Legionnaires' Death Toll Rises To 10 In South Bronx; State Offers Free Building Testing

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As the death toll in the South Bronx Legionnaires' disease outbreak rose to 10 on Thursday, state officials pledged additional resources to help fight the disease.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker took a walking tour of the Concourse Plaza, one of the contaminated sites, 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera reported.

"We are doing everything that we can. We have the attention of the city; now we have the attention of the state," Diaz said.

Legionnaires' disease is caused when water tainted with a certain bacteria is inhaled into the lungs.

Five buildings in the South Bronx have tested positive for the bacteria since the outbreak began on July 10.

Officials said Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, the Concourse Plaza Mall, the Opera House Hotel, a Verizon office building and the Streamline Plastic Co. have all been decontaminated.

Legionnaires' Death Toll Rises To 10 In South Bronx; State Offers Free Building Testing

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, 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa reported.

"The order instructs the owners or managers to test and disinfect their cooling tower within the next 14 days," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "Failure to comply with the commissioner's order is a misdemeanor. We are doing this out of an abundance of caution."

De Blasio promised the public that the city has a good plan, CBS2's Dave Carlin reported.

"We feel confident the source is among the five checked and remediated," the mayor said.

City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Basset made it clear the order applies to cooling towers citywide, WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported.

"We are in the midst of the largest outbreak of Legionella that we've seen in the city and we want to know that all of the cooling towers in the city are in good maintenance," she said.

Legionnaires' Death Toll Rises To 10 In South Bronx; State Offers Free Building Testing

Anyone who does not comply could be fined or even ordered to shut down the equipment.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced Thursday that the state will offer free Legionella testing for all eligible buildings statewide.

The testing will be available to all building owners, operators, managers and landlords of buildings with cooling towers or evaporative condenser units that can be sources of the bacteria 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."

But not all residents were reassured by the health commissioner's visit and the state's increased involvement.

"No, that makes me think it's a little more serious than they're letting the public know," one woman told Rivera.

State Offers Free Building Testing As Legionnaires' Death Toll Rises To 10 In South Bronx

De Blasio also reiterated that the water supply, including drinking water, fountains, shower heads and pools, is safe and that Legionnaire's disease is not contagious, Carlin reported.

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

The disease is both treatable and preventable, health officials said.

Cuomo said he has reached out to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and asked for a team to conduct a "thorough briefing" on the Bronx outbreak, WCBS 880's Jim Smith reported.

"The CDC has done work on this topic and has research that we believe may be instructive or at least informative," the governor said.

Legionnaires' Death Toll Rises To 10 In South Bronx; State Offers Free Building Testing

On Wednesday, Mayor de Blasio announced new legislation to identify and inspect all buildings fitted with building cooling towers. Regular inspections would be conducted and penalties would be imposed on those that fail to meet standards.

Meanwhile, Cuomo said the state is also researching statewide regulations to prevent Legionella bacteria from forming in the cooling systems.

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