PLATTSBURGH — No further Legionella cases had arisen as of Friday, and the final patient at the hospital here was discharged.

"All discharged, which is good, and recovering," said Darwyna Facteau, director of the Health Care Services Division of the Clinton County Health Department, referring to the total of four cases in the past few weeks.

The fourth patient, who, as were the others, was hospitalized with pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria, resides at the same apartment complex as the other three, Facteau confirmed.

But that doesn't mean they picked up the illness there, said John Canoza, director/engineer of Environmental Health and Safety at the Health Department.

An outbreak in the Bronx last summer, he and Facteau pointed out, was finally traced to a certain source, matching the DNA of one of the people who fell ill — who lived 2 miles away.

In any event, Health Department officials believe the Plattsburgh outbreak is over.

"We really believe we would have seen other sick people by this point," Facteau said.

The weather in large part informs that reasoning, as it has become colder and rainy in recent days.

"If you look at Legionella," Facteau explained, "most cases are in September," because of the warmth of the water and outside temperatures.

Why not July?

"It's drier in July," Canoza said. "You need moisture; you need water vapor."


Legionella bacteria is ubiquitous in the environment, in water and moist dirt. 

"If you sample 10 different places, it will commonly be found in nine," Facteau said.

But the question is, she said, "is it enough to make a person sick?"

Friday, the county only had preliminary results back from the first batch of samples sent out for evaluation.

In two stages, each round of testing takes eight to 10 days to come back, Canoza said, with part 2 seeing if there's a DNA match with any who fell ill.

There's only a 3 to 5 percent chance that the source will ever be found, he said.

But the local Health Department is working closely with "our peers in the State Health Department who are monitoring other outbreaks in the state," Canoza said.

Such an outbreak is not unusual, he said.

And most people who become sick aren't at significant risk.

He praised staff at University of Vermont Health Network, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital for detecting the first case and working with the Health Department to make the public aware.

As for how to decide whether a person has an illness from Legionella, Facteau said, "if you're sick enough to call your physician, you definitely should."

Email Suzanne Moore:

Twitter: @editorSuzanne

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