By Gretchen Berger
The New York State Health Department has confirmed four deaths out of eight cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the west wing of the 409-bed Amsterdam Nursing Home, located on Amsterdam Avenue and West 112th Street in Morningside Heights.
Two deaths from the disease were reported a week ago by the New York Times. Seven of the eight residents diagnosed with Legionnaires’ had developed symptoms between late August and early September. There was a fifth death, but the cause is still under investigation, a Health Department spokesman told the Times. The ages of the eight infected residents range from 69 to 93. The source of the infections in the building has not yet been determined, according to the state.
Legionnaire’s disease is a severe form of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria. It spreads primarily through mist, such as from air conditioning units for large buildings; by inhaling contaminated water droplets; or by accidentally swallowing water containing Legionella into the lungs. It is not spread person-to-person. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable.
Since 2015, NY State has required cooling towers on buildings to be registered, regularly inspected, and tested for Legionella. Regulations require that health-care facilities perform annual Legionella culture sampling and analyses for drinking water systems. Amsterdam Nursing Home’s spokesman Jacomowitz says it has been fully compliant. But, out of five cooling-tower system inspections, the Amsterdam Nursing Home has been cited twice for violations since 2017, according to city data reported in The Times. A 2017 violation was for a new cooling tower that was not adequately cleaned or disinfected before use. In March 2021, they received another violation for failing to collect and analyze a Legionella sample. The most recent inspection in October 2021 showed no violations.
“Every passing is a tragedy,” Jacomowitz said. “Our hearts go out to the families and all of their loved ones.”
Amsterdam Nursing Home is managed by Centers Health Care, a Bronx-based long-term care company that operates about 50 skilled nursing and rehab facilities in the Northeast and Midwest.