NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, reacting to a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, proposed legislation on Monday to register and maintain the city’s estimated 2,500 cooling towers, some of which are being blamed for the illness.
On Monday the death toll was raised to 12 from 10 on Saturday and the number of cases to 113 from 108. Officials said the higher figures stem from new reporting, not new deaths or cases.
“All levels of government have been in close coordination and now we are turning our attention to ensuring we can handle any such outbreak in the future and, in fact, prevent any such outbreak,” de Blasio said at a press conference on Monday.
The proposal comes as both city and state health officials work to find and disinfect every cooling tower in the city. In the South Bronx area, inspectors have found 39 such towers, 12 of which have tested positive for Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ when it is inhaled through mist.
De Blasio said 22 of the identified cooling towers have tested negative for the bacteria, and five are still awaiting results. He said all will be disinfected by Monday night.
City health officials said the last time a person became sick with Legionnaires’ was a week ago on Aug. 3, and that the outbreak has peaked.
On Saturday, Governor Andrew Cuomo, in partnership with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sent state health workers to help inspect cooling towers in the South Bronx, a move that prompted political questions because of its overlap with the mayor’s response to the outbreak.
But de Blasio said on Monday that health experts at all levels are working together.
“The politicians are not the issue here. The issue is the people who know the facts, are they working together constantly? The answer is yes,” he said.
Editing by Eric Walsh