LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) – State health officials have identified two more patients with Legionnaires Disease in Niagara County, raising the cluster of Legionnaires cases to 13—-a tight cluster which health officials said is confined to the city and town of Lockport.
The new cases also deepen a mystery that has baffled investigators since the outbreak was discovered, finding the source of the Legionnaires Disease, which has claimed two lives in Lockport.
The New York State Department of Health initially identified a cluster of 8 cases of Legionnaires Disease in Niagara County, last month, and many of the patients were within one or two blocks of Eastern Niagara Hospital in Lockport.
Investigators took a water sample from the hospital’s cooling tower and found elevated levels of Legionnaires bacteria, and the cooling unit was immediately sanitized. Niagara County’s Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton said, the cooling tower has come up clean since then.
“We are concerned about the number of cases in one area, but we continue to make sure we identify, and eliminate from the best possible sources of the Legionella bacteria that may have caused these issues.”
Health officials are also required by state law to check all cooling towers in each county, and 90 have been inspected so far, in Niagara County, but none tested positive for an elevated level of Legionella.
While it might seem as if the hospital is the source, Director Stapleton says they have been unable to establish a link between the strain of Legionnaires that has sickened residents and the strain found in the hospital’s cooling tower.
“They go to the physician and the physician will usually try–if they believe they know what the infection is–they will start on the antibiotics right away. But if the patient has already started antibiotics, then it is difficult to grow DNA in that sputum sample.”
While there are 13 cases in the Lockport cluster of Legionnaires cases, Niagara County health officials have identified 21 patients total with Legionnaires Disease, so far in 2016.