SCHUMER: FEDS MUST ACT AS DEADLY LEGIONNAIRES’ DISEASE EMERGES IN UPSTATE HOSPITAL, NATIONAL STANDARD NEEDED TO TEST WATER SUPPLY; SENATOR LAUNCHES PLAN TO PROVIDE FUNDING FOR LEGIONNAIRES’ RESEARCH, USE NYS REGULATIONS TO DEVELOP NEW NATIONAL TESTING STANDARDS
Multiple Incidents Of Legionnaires’ Have Occurred In NY Over The Past Few Months, Likely Due To Legionella In The Water Supply; Currently There Is No National Standard For Testing For Legionella In Cooling Towers
Schumer’s Plan Comes In The Wake Of St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center In Syracuse Identifying Three Patients With Legionnaires’ Disease
Schumer Plan Will Help Prevent Future Outbreaks In Syracuse & Upstate NY
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched his plan to help prevent future Legionnaires’ cases in Syracuse and Upstate New York. Schumer said that recent New York incidents have underscored the need for more federal funds to be put toward stopping future incidents of Legionnaires’ disease. As a result, Schumer is launching a two-pronged push that would first provide increased federal funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to further research the bacteria and disease and develop national standards for Legionella testing in buildings' water supplies. Second, it would require the CDC to work with New York State and study new state regulations on testing cooling towers so a national plan to prevent reemergence of deadly Legionnaires' can be developed and shared with cities across Upstate New York and the country.
“Legionnaires’ is a deadly disease that has now claimed the lives of more than a dozen New Yorkers. More Upstate residents could find themselves infected if we do not increase federal funding to the CDC, which is desperately needed to better understand this disease and bacteria, and develop nationwide standards for testing the water supplies through which this bacteria is transmitted so hospitals can better treat patients,” said Schumer. “New York State has already begun taking steps to curb this uptick, so I’m urging the CDC – once it has this additional funding – to work together to develop the recommendations that will stop any future outbreaks in Syracuse and Upstate NY.”
Schumer explained that Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. An infection of Legionnaires’ disease occurs when a person breathes in a mist or vapor that has been contaminated with Legionella. This bacterium is most commonly found in cooling towers. Schumer explained that, when Legionella is found in a cooling tower, it survives in the water supply and subsequently has the ability to infect people in the building or locale that is served by that particular tower. According to the CDC, an estimated 8,000 to 18,000 people are hospitalized for Legionnaires’ disease in the U.S. each year.
However, there has been a recent uptick in the number of cases and, therefore, the number of deaths related to Legionnaires’ disease over the past few years. According to a Newsday report, researchers found New York State had the highest rates of Legionnaires' infection nationwide. According to the report, between 2011 and 2013, approximately half of the 1,426 cases studied required admission to hospital intensive care units. Schumer pointed to recent, majorincidents of Legionnaires’ that have occurred in New York just over the past few months as evidence that this is an increasing concern that must be stopped. In August, an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Bronx killed 13 New Yorkers and left many more ill. On Long Island, Legionella bacteria was found in seven schools. Then last month, in early October, St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse identified three patients with Legionnaires’ disease. Due to this reemergence of Legionnaires’, Schumer said more must be done to curb the uptick of this oftentimes-lethal disease. Following the incidentsof Legionnaires’ at St. Joseph’s in Central New York, Schumer said it is unacceptable that the federal government currently lacks national standards to test cooling towers and water supplies.
As a result, Schumer is first urging federal appropriators to dedicate more federal funding to the CDC’s Core Infectious Diseases Program, which houses its activities surrounding Legionnaires’ disease. Schumer said additional federal funding is needed to address this public health threat. Currently, there is no national standard for the frequency of testing for Legionella in cooling towers. Schumer said the CDC has indicated that Legionella is an emerging respiratory pathogen and, as such, CDC would need increased resources to properly research and eventually create these national standards. The CDC continuously works to conduct research, surveillance and reporting efforts around Legionnaires’ disease, but with an over 249 percent increase nationwide in disease prevalence between 2000 and 2011, it is clear that more funding must be allocated towards stemming any further incidents. Therefore, Schumer is urging Senate appropriators to include in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies’ appropriations bill $500 million for this program. This constitutes an increase of $250 million and is necessary, Schumer says, to curb the recent incidents and better understand how to prevent and treat these occurrences.
Second, Schumer is pushing the CDC to work with New York State in order to evaluate the impact of their new regulations and to help determine this national standard for testing cooling towers and water supplies for Legionella bacteria. Schumer explained that, according to St. Joseph’s Hospital, following the incidents at St. Joseph’s in Syracuse, the hospital took immediate cautionary measures to help prevent further patients from becoming infected. In addition, following outbreaks in New York City, the state implemented sweeping, first-of-their-kind regulations that called for the registration and periodic testing of all cooling towers. Specifically, New York State lawmakers responded to these outbreaks by mandating that all building owners register their cooling towers with the state and have the towers inspected and tested for harmful bacteria like Legionella within the following month. The regulations also require testing every 90 days after the initial test. While there is currently no consensus on the frequency for performing this testing, Schumer said these new regulations should provide a platform upon which successful research can be based. Ultimately, Schumer said New York’s framework could be used to help the CDC when developing these federal standards for testing and treatment to curb outbreaks of Legionnaires’.
This two-pronged Schumer plan would require Congress provide more funding to the CDC so it can then work with health officials on the New York State level to develop these national testing standards. Schumer said this would not only increase care and stem additional incidents of this deadly disease but also bring about new research and further recommendations that could be implemented and delivered to cities and states across the country. This, Schumer said, would go a long way to ensuing that the necessary resources to research and combat this disease are provided.
Copies of Schumer’s letters to Senate Appropriators and the CDC appear below:
Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray:
We urge you to recognize the importance and recent surge in U.S. cases of Legionnaires’ disease as you finalize the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies’ Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Appropriations bill.
Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year an estimated 8,000 to 18,000 people seek care in a hospital due to Legionnaires' disease in the United States. However, recently there has been an uptick in the number of cases and unfortunately deaths related to Legionnaires’ disease. An infection of Legionnaires' disease occurs when a person breathes in a mist or vapor that has been contaminated with Legionella.
Studies have found that cooling towers can be infected with the bacteria. Currently there is no national standard for the frequency of testing for Legionella in cooling towers or elsewhere. The CDC has been working on research, surveillance and reporting efforts around Legionnaires’ disease, but with an over 249% increase in disease prevalence between 2000 and 2011, it is clear that more needs to be done.
The Administration’s FY 2016 budget proposal requests $500 million for the Core Infectious Diseases Program, which is where CDC’s activities around Legionnaires’ disease are funded. This is an important increase of $250 million. CDC believes that Legionella is an emerging respiratory pathogen and as such they would like to have the increased resources to properly research and eventually create a national testing standard. These are actions that are necessary to curb the recent outbreaks and better understand how to prevent and treat these occurrences.
We realize the Subcommittee has many priorities to fulfill, but we urge you to support increased funding for the CDC’s Core Infectious Diseases Program within the final Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies’ Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 appropriations bill. Legionnaires’ disease is a public health threat that is not fully understood. This funding will go a long way to ensuing that the necessary resources to research and combat this disease are provided. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of our request.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
Dear Dr. Frieden,
I write today to urge the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to increase its efforts to prevent future outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease. I was extremely pleased to see that the Administration’s FY 2016 budget proposal requests $500 million for the Core Infectious Diseases Program, which is where CDC’s activities around Legionnaires’ disease are funded.
As you know, Legionella is a bacteria that can lead to a serious type of lung infection called Legionnaire’s disease. Multiple incidents of Legionnaires’ disease have occurred in New York over the past few months, all due to the presence of Legionella in the water supply. In August of this year, an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease emerged in the Bronx, killing more than ten New Yorkers and making many more ill. Then, earlier this month three patients with Legionnaires’ disease were identified in Syracuse. Unfortunately, one of those patients passed away.
In response, New York State recently implemented sweeping regulations that call for the registration and periodic testing of all cooling towers. There is currently no federal standard for testing but tragically incidents of Legionnaires’ disease have increased over the past few years. While there is currently no consensus on the frequency for performing this testing, New York’s actions present an opportunity to better understand the usefulness of regular testing of a building’s water supply.
New York is not the only state experiencing Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks. In Illinois, a veteran’s home and in California, a prison have both reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease. It is with great concern for the health of New Yorkers and all Americans that I implore you to prioritize Legionella
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator