LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Niagara County Health Department said late Friday they’re investigating a possible 17th case of Legionnaires’ Disease, which also adds to eight cases diagnosed within the past month.
Many in the most recent cluster of illnesses are located within close proximity to Eastern Niagara Hospital.
Legionnaires’ bacteria was discovered by health department investigators in the hospital’s cooling tower, which is about a block away from where several people who have fallen ill live — including one man who died. That man had a pre-existing condition
At 88 years old, Anthony Tocco said he considers himself lucky.
“I felt so bad, which I normally don’t do, I asked her to take me to the emergency room,” he said.
Like many men, that’s rare for Anthony Tocco, so sick he asked his wife Lois to take him to the nearest ER.
He describes his illness on Sept. 9 in the most severe sense.
“So I just felt like I was going to go,” he said.
The nearest ER was Eastern Niagara Hospital, about a block away from his house in Lockport.
“He was very very ill at the time, so I didn’t dare leave him,” his wife Lois, said.
Anthony was eventually sent to Buffalo, diagnosed with pneumonia and given heavy doses of antibiotics. That likely saved his life. But he was still unsure.
“You don’t know what’s going on, it does scare you,” he said. “I was scared. And fortunately, my wife was there to keep me calm and said, take one day at a time. We’ll get through this.”
After being admitted on Friday night, Anthony was sent home the following Tuesday.
Three days later, and a week after being admitted to the hospital, the Tocco’s phone rang. It was the health department.
“And they let me know that he was diagnosed with legionnaires disease,” Lois said. “I was shocked, because I had no clue.”
In the shadow of that cooling tower, Tocco’s neighborhood, where several cases of legionnaires have been found, including one of two fatalities.
County health department investigators haven’t determined whether the legionnaires’ bacteria found in the hospital’s cooling tower matches the strain that infected those who live nearby.
Anthony said that’s part of his frustration.
“I wished the authorities would get on the ball, and find out who is responsible. Somebody must be responsible,” he said. “How are they supposed to protect the public, if they don’t notify us of what’s going on.”
The cooling tower in question also been disinfected and is no longer a threat, the health department said.