Possible cluster of Legionnaires’ disease near Passaic/Bergen, NJ boarder
The New Jersey Department of Health is recommending doctor visits for any residents and visitors of Bergen and Passaic County with certain symptoms, as officials investigate a possible cluster of Legionnaires' disease.
DOH on Thursday announced that it is aware of seven confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease, a type of pneumonia, in residents of neighboring municipalities across Passaic and Bergen counties. An additional report of a suspected case is under investigation.
The cases were reported to DOH between Nov. 9 and Dec. 21.
"The risk of Legionnaires' disease among any resident of, or recent visitor to, either Passaic or Bergen County is low," said DOH Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
But, DOH is recommending that individuals who live or work in these counties and become ill with pneumonia-like symptoms (fever, chills, cough, chest pain, muscle aches, headache, etc.) visit their health care provider immediately to be evaluated.
DOH says people should follow this recommendation for two weeks after visiting these counties, as it can take a while for symptoms of Legionnaires' disease to surface.
DOH alerted local health departments and health care providers earlier this month of the increased number of reported cases.
What is Legionnaires' disease?
Legionnaires' disease is caused by the bacteria Legionella, but not all people who are exposed to Legionella develop the disease.
According to DOH, people over the age of 50, especially those who smoke or have chronic health conditions or weakened immune systems, are at increased risk.
People can get the disease by breathing in small droplets of waters containing the bacteria. Aerosolized water can come from hot tubs, cooling misters, decorative fountains, plumbing systems, and air conditioning units for large buildings, according to health officials. Home A/C units do not use water to cool and do not present a risk for Legionella growth.
Less commonly, people may get sick while drinking when water containing Legionella "goes down the wrong pipe." The disease is not spread from person to person.