Yonkers officials have announced that they found bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease in a Riverside High School cooling tower.
Only a few weeks before the school year is set to open, Jerilynne Fierstein, a spokeswoman for Yonkers school, announced that the orientation of ninth-grade students on Friday and Thursday was cancelled at the Riverside High School due to a possible outbreak, according to Echo Examiner.
“The facility was closed immediately out of an abundance of caution to allow for the proper disinfecting and cleaning process to occur. Riverside was reopened today and the cooling tower does not pose any health risk to students, administrators, staff or other members of the public,” Mayor Mike Spano said in a statement.
At this time, the Riverside High School in Yonkers has been the only facility in Westchester County to test positive for the bacteria, and there have been no reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Yonkers. But Mayor Spano, in order to take precautions, instructed all city-owned cooling towers to be inspected and is requiring them to be registered with the city.
So far, the disease has killed 12 people in South Bronx and affected another 127 people. The noted symptoms of the disease are similar to the flu, including headache, fever, shortness of breath and a dry cough and can appear 2-10 days after being exposed to the bacteria.
Health experts are strongly suggesting that all owners of cooling towers, public spa pools and warm water systems have regular maintenance of all of their equipment as a precautionary measure of Legionella contamination.
Although the bacteria has been found, and affected many, from cooling systems, it is also commonly found in soils and potting mixes. Experts are also recommending for people to wear face masks and gloves when they are using compost and potting mix in order to prevent any bacteria that might be present from spreading.