2 dead from Legionnaires' disease in NYC: 4 things to know

Two people have died from Legionnaires' disease in New York City, and 31 cases have been reported since July 10 in the South Bronx, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The following are four things to know about the story and the disease itself.

1. Legionnaires' disease, also known as legionellosis, is caused by the bacterium Legionella, which is found naturally in the environment, usually in warm water, according to the CDC. A person becomes infected usually when they breathe in a mist or vapor that has been contaminated with the bacteria; it cannot be spread person to person.

2. In the current New York City outbreak, officials are testing water from cooling towers and other sources to find the source of the problem, the city's health department reports. The city urges anyone with symptoms of the illness to seek medical attention.

3. Symptoms of Legionnaires' disease are similar to that of pneumonia, making it difficult to diagnose, the CDC reports. The illness is treatable with antibiotics, and the CDC estimates that 8,000 to 18,000 people are hospitalized with the disease annually in the U.S.

4. Legionella infections have occurred in hospitals in the U.S. recently, including at IU Health La Porte (Ind.) Hospital, the Salem (Va.) Veterans Affairs Medical Center and UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh. For tips on how to avoid or temper Legionella infections in hospitals, click here.

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