New York State Department of Health and Chemung County Health Department Provide Update on Legionella Investigation in Elmira

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 6, 2019) - The New York State Department of Health, working collaboratively with the Chemung County Health Department, today announced new findings in its ongoing investigation into a cluster of Legionnaires' disease cases in the City of Elmira.

Testing completed at New York State's Wadsworth Center determined a molecular match between specimens from four patients who live within the same Elmira neighborhood and who had recently been diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease. Environmental samples were collected by the State and County health departments in the homes of those patients and from cooling towers in proximity to determine whether there was a common point of exposure. After extensive testing, a sample collected from one of three cooling towers at Elmira Heat Treating proved to match the Legionella bacteria from the four clinical cases.

NYS DOH and Chemung County investigators visited Elmira Heat Treating on November 1 to inspect all three cooling towers and gather operational information from the company's owners. The inspection revealed that one cooling tower did have a history of bacterial growth, but testing earlier in 2019 indicated it was within State acceptable levels for Legionella. Additional precautionary sampling was conducted on all three towers.

Elmira Heat Treating has been fully cooperative with NYS DOH and Chemung County and has agreed to immediately implement all actions being recommended including shutting down the cooling tower and completing a decontamination process. After the tower is drained, scrubbed, and flushed, the tower will then be re-filled and retested according to regulations.

Legionnaire's disease is not spread from person to person. These bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in water. They grow best in warm water, like the kind found in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, and decorative fountains. People get infected when they breathe in a mist containing the bacteria. Mist that exits a cooling tower may be transported by prevailing winds to other locations that are some distance from the tower. Legionnaires' disease symptoms are similar to other types of pneumonia and can include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches and headaches. Any individual that develops symptoms that could be associated with Legionnaires' disease should share this information with their health care provider.

Most healthy people exposed toLegionellado not get sick. People at increased risk of getting sick are:

  • People 50 years or older
  • Current or former smokers
  • People with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema)
  • People with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy)
  • People with cancer
  • People with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure

For additional information on Legionnaires' Disease, please visit: