Legionnaires' cluster becoming issue in one NJ county

The New Jersey Department of Health is investigating a cluster of Legionnaires' disease cases in Union County, with 14 confirmed cases and one death.

Video Transcript

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- And we are back with a health alert in New Jersey, an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease. Officials studying a cluster of cases in Union County that killed at least one person. New Jersey reporter Toni Yates with the effort now to find the source of the contamination.

TONI YATES: It's not being disclosed exactly where in Union County, but investigators are trying to track down what the health department is calling a cluster outbreak of Legionnaires' disease which has killed one man who was in his late 60s. We came to Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth to speak to their infectious disease expert. He is not assisting in the outbreak investigation.

WILLIAM FARRER: It usually causes pneumonia. Pneumonia can range from mild to very severe.

TONI YATES: The State Health Department says, in general, Legionella bacteria can be found in infected cooling towers, hot tubs, cooling mist units, like humidifiers, decorative fountains, or plumbing systems. Legionnaires' disease cannot be spread from person to person. We asked about the bacteria's symptoms versus COVID virus symptoms.

WILLIAM FARRER: Some people may have more cough, they may bring up phlegm, and there are tests that can be done that will often diagnose the Legionnaires for what it is. This infection affects people who have lung problems, who's immune systems are compromised, who are elderly, who are smokers.

TONI YATES: The state says the cases were reported to the Department between February 3rd and February 26th and that the Department is working with the local health departments in Union County to investigate this cluster.

One positive note in this is that the health department is saying there is very, very little chance that this cluster can affect the community at large.