August 7, 2015
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces State Health Department Sending Teams to the Bronx to Test For Legionella Bacteria

Governor Cuomo Announces State Health Department Sending Teams to the Bronx to Test For Legionella Bacteria

Announcement Follows Briefing in Governor’s New York City Office with Officials from CDC and Local Health Departments across NYS

At Governor’s Request, CDC Personnel Deployed to New York to Aid State and Local Officials in Sample Collection and Testing

State Health Commissioner to Review Existing Regulations for Possible Improvements that would Prevent Similar Outbreaks in Future

Governor Cuomo announced that, beginning tomorrow; teams led by the State Department of Health will be deployed to the Bronx to expedite the collection and testing of cooling tower water samples for Legionella Bacteria. This follows yesterday’s announcement that the state is providing free testing for building owners and operators with cooling towers or evaporative condenser units that can be sources of the bacteria, as well as two free hotlines (888-769-7243 or 518-485-1159) to support sample collection. At the Governor’s direction, State Health Commissioner Dr. Zucker will also be reviewing current Health regulations and examining possible improvements to help prevent similar outbreaks of Legionnaires’ Disease in the future.

Today’s announcement was preceded by a briefing in the Governor’s New York City office between representatives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, State Department of Health and local health departments from across the state.


“As officials work to contain and combat this outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease, today, we are taking the next proactive step forward to protect New Yorkers,” Governor Cuomo said. “We are working to treat victims and stop the spread of the outbreak, while also taking precautions to maintain the public health in the future. I wish to thank CDC Director Dr. Frieden for his quick support, as well as all of our partners in the CDC, New York City and other local health departments for their coordination and cooperation. Finally, my thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been impacted by Legionnaires’, and my heart goes out to those have lost loved ones to this terrible disease.”

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “This is an all hands on deck situation and we need all of our partners at every level of government to help address the situation. We just had a very productive briefing with some of the county health commissioners from around the state, and I’d like to thank both them and our partners at the CDC for coming together to help us combat the current outbreak. I believe that the steps we are taking are crucial and will safeguard the public health.”

Following a conversation between the Governor and CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC has deployed a team to New York City to assist in the effort to combat the current outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease. That team is led by Dr. Claressa Lucas of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) and Dr. Jasen Kunz of the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH).

Local officials that participated in the briefing with Dr. Lucas, Dr. Kunz and Dr. Zucker included:

  • Westchester County Commissioner of Health Dr. Sherlita Amler
  • New York City Commissioner of Health Dr. Mary Bassett
  • Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein
  • Nassau County Commissioner of Health Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein
  • Cortland County Director of Health Dr. Catherine Feuerherm
  • Suffolk County Commissioner of Health Dr. James Tomarken
  • Albany County Commissioner of Health Dr. Elizabeth Whalen

Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced that the State Health Department is providing Legionella testing for building owners, operators, managers and landlords of buildings with cooling towers or evaporative condenser units that can be sources of the bacteria.

The Governor has also made State phone lines available in order to further facilitate Legionella testing by State Health officials. Those numbers are 888-769-7243 and 518-485-1159, and are available to building owners and operators free of charge. Trained operators are available Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm. These lines are designed to support sample collection, which will facilitate testing by the Department of Health. If you require medical attention, call your health care provider or 9-1-1 immediately.

Building owners, operators, managers, and landlords who wish to have DOH test for Legionella should send the name and address to which the kit should be mailed, and a working phone number to: [email protected]. DOH will send an appropriate sampling kit with simple instructions for sample collection.

Legionnaires’ Disease is not spread person-to-person. Legionella exists naturally in water and moist soil and is found in creeks and ponds, hot water tanks, water in air conditioning cooling towers and evaporative condensers, as well as soil at excavation sites – but high concentrations of the bacteria can be dangerous. Proper maintenance and routine disinfection of cooling towers can help minimize the presence of Legionella and reduce the risk for exposure to the public. Although some smaller buildings may have units of this type, water-based cooling towers are typically found in larger, industrial, commercial and high-rise residential sites.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Cooling Engineers (ASHRAE) recently released new guidelines that landlords are encouraged to follow. Additional information on Legionnaires’ disease from DOH can be found here.

Contact the Governor's Press Office

NYC Press Office: 212.681.4640

Albany Press Office: 518.474.8418