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New Legionnaires' Disease Cluster Found In The Bronx

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New York City health officials are monitoring a new cluster of Legionnaires' disease cases in the Bronx.

Officials announced Monday that seven cases have been diagnosed in the Morris Park neighborhood. The patients range in age from 45 to 75 and are all currently hospitalized.

MORE: Five Facts About Legionnaires' Disease

The new cases are not connected to a Legionnaires' outbreak in the South Bronx last month that claimed 12 lives, officials said. That outbreak, the largest in the city's history, was traced to Legionella bacteria in the cooling tower of the Opera House Hotel.

As CBS2's Tracee Carrasco reported, there were questions and concerns on Monday night, as city officials said the exact source of the outbreak was unknown.

"We want to know what's going to be done about it so that it won't get widespread," Mary Martinez said.

Officials said the first case of the new cluster was reported Sept. 21. No fatalities have been reported.

"I urge all New Yorkers to seek care immediately if they have flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, headache, or difficulty breathing," said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. "The department is taking immediate steps to determine the source and protect the people who live and work in Morris Park."

New Legionnaires' Disease Cluster Found In The Bronx

"Because the cases are occurring in people who have either lived in or worked in or visited different buildings, that is why we are suspicious of an outdoor air source of this bacteria, such as what would come from a cooling tower," Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Jay Varma told WCBS 880's Ginny Kosola.

New Legionnaires' Disease Cluster Found In The Bronx

Nevertheless, the city has tested 35 cooling towers as a precaution.

"As we monitor this situation, we urge anyone who feels sick to visit their doctor or a hospital to get checked. It is too important to wait," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. "We will continue to stay on top of these developments and take the necessary measures as we gather more information."

New Legionnaires' Disease Cluster Found In The Bronx

The city created new cooling tower cleaning regulations after the previous outbreak.

Officials said New York City sees about 200 to 300 cases of Legionnaires' disease a year.

Legionnaires' disease — a form of pneumonia especially dangerous for the elderly and for people with underlying health issues — can usually be traced to places favorable to Legionella growth such as cooling towers, hot water tanks, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers and condensers in large air conditioning systems.

It is spread through contaminated mist and cannot be spread from person to person.

(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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