Pool Remains Off Limits After Legionnaires Discovery

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Newsday (New York)


The pool and spa at a Garden City Park gym remain off-limits to patrons nearly a month after the bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease were found there, officials confirmed yesterday.

One to two cases of the infection may be connected with the L.A. Fitness Sports Club on Jericho Turnpike, said Mary Ellen Laurain, spokeswoman for the Nassau County Department of Health.

No new cases are expected, given that the pool and hot tub were ordered closed on Dec. 30, and the incubation period for infection is two to 10 days, Laurain said.

A check of the gym's app, however, shows that Aquafitness instruction is scheduled on Feb. 6. Laurain said there are no guarantees the gym's pool and spa will reopen by that date.

"There is no date until sufficient evidence is shown to us that it is safe," she said. "Until they show to us and provide evidence that the pool meets all the criteria that we have set forth, we will not lift that order."

Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein, Nassau County's health commissioner, issued a "commissioner's order" last month to close the pool and hot tub areas because Legionella pneumophila, the bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease, were confirmed.

The bacteria, which are transmitted by aerosols of water, can cause a form of pneumonia, experts say.

A commissioner's order suspends the portion of the operating permit overseen by the health department, Laurain said.

The continued closure of the gym's pool and spa dovetails with an advocacy group's call this week to increase spending on water infrastructure statewide to prevent exposure to bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease.

New York has had a growing problem with waterborne pathogens, particularly Legionella, Daryn Cline, spokesman for the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires' disease, said in a statement.

In 2015, Legionella bacteria were isolated from several water towers in Long Island school districts and, in the Bronx, more than a dozen people died after exposure to contaminated mists associated with air-conditioning cooling units.

"Funds should also be allocated to improve monitoring of waterborne pathogens in the water supply," Cline said, adding that there are more cases of Legionnaires' disease in New York than in any other state.

The alliance based that claim on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also has found an increase in Legionella bacteria nationwide.

Dr. Roy Steigbigel, a specialist in infectious diseases at Stony Brook University Hospital, said the pathogens' upsurge may be due to greater surveillance. "We have to be very careful when someone says we've found it, because the next question is so what," Steigbigel said.

But Dr. Pascal Imperato, founding dean of the School of Health at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn, said while increased surveillance is one chapter in the Legionella story, aging buildings and plumbing might be another.

"No one as yet has any proof, but as buildings and their plumbing age they may provide a better home for these organisms," he said, noting that Legionella bacteria thrive in water and are most often associated with air conditioning systems, hot tubs and fountains.

"Also, people are increasingly exposed to hot tubs and swimming pools, even in the winter," Imperato said.

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January 26, 2017


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