Warm summer has caused the bacteria to explode
New York City has always seen a certain number of cases of Legionnaire's disease, about 200-300 cases per year. Not too unusual, in a city with many people living inside climate-controlled environments - air conditioners and HVAC units are notorious for harboring the bacteria that causes Legionnaire's.
But this summer's outbreak has been unusually deadly, with 12 people killed in the South Bronx. The city has tracked down the source of infections to HVAC rooftop cooling towers which sit atop large office buildings in the neighborhood. These towers collect moisture and heat from the central air conditioning, and sitting outside in the humid summer weather, they can grow bacteria fairly quickly.
New York City regulations require these cooling towers to be disinfected regularly. And in fact, several of them are documented as having been disinfected just a few weeks before the infection spread.
So is Legionnaire's disease growing quicker than we thought it could? Or are these buildings skimping on the disinfection routine? (Or both?)
Climate change means that more people will spend more time inside in air conditioned spaces, and that the outdoor weather is more conducive to bacteria like the one that causes Legionnaire's disease. We had better find a way to control this bacteria, and New York is serving as the proving ground. Here's hoping they find the solution soon, before more people get sick.