Health officials investigating cluster of rare Legionnaires’ disease cases in New York

Health officials on Long Island are investigating 10 reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease — a rare form of pneumonia caused by a bacteria called Legionella. The source of the cluster has yet to be identified, but New York is seeing an uptick in Legionnaires cases statewide, the Nassau County Department of Health said. 

The 10 cases of the disease, first identified in October, have been reported within a one-mile radius in a Long Island neighborhood, the county’s health department said. According to CBS New York, medical teams are working on contact tracing, as well as swabbing and sampling on site to find the cases’ origins. 

The cluster of cases include people between the ages of 35 and 96. As of Saturday, one person has died from Legionnaires, two are hospitalized and seven have been released from the hospital, CBS New York reported. 

People can contract Legionnaires by breathing in a mist or vapor containing the Legionella bacteria, which occur naturally in the environment, according to the county health department. Legionella are commonly found in fountains, spray parks, hot tubs, showers and faucets. The disease is not spread from person to person, the health department said. 

In 2018, there were nearly 10,000 cases of Legionnaires reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the number of cases could have been 2.7 times higher than what was reported because it is often misdiagnosed as one of the more common forms of pneumonia, the CDC said. 

Symptoms of Legionnaires typically begin between two to 10 days after exposure to the bacteria and include shortness of breath, high fever, cough, muscle aches and headache. The disease usually lasts between two to five days and can range from a mild cough to a “rapidly fatal” case of pneumonia, according to the World Health Organization. Complications from the disease can include respiratory failure, shock and acute kidney failure. 

The general death rate for the disease ranges from 5 to 10%, and typically depends on how severe of a case it is, where the disease was acquired, and if the patient has preexisting conditions. Those over the age of 50, current and past smokers, those with chronic lung disease and immunocompromised people are at higher risk of coming down with Legionnaires, the Nassau County Department of Health said. 

Those with Legionnaires are usually treated with antibiotics, and

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What the latest COVID research says about breakthrough cases and transmission : Shots

Gloria Clemons gives a COVID-19 vaccine to Navy veteran Perry Johnson at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Ill., in September.

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Gloria Clemons gives a COVID-19 vaccine to Navy veteran Perry Johnson at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Ill., in September.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Conventional wisdom says that if you’re vaccinated and you get a breakthrough infection with the coronavirus, you can transmit that infection to someone else and make that person sick.

But new evidence suggests that even though that may happen on occasion, breakthrough infections might not represent the threat to others that scientists originally thought.

Ross Kedl, an immunologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, will point out to anyone who cares to listen that basic immunology suggests the virus of a vaccinated person who gets infected will be different from the virus of an infected unvaccinated person.

That’s because vaccinated people have already made antibodies to the coronavirus. Even if those antibodies don’t prevent infection, they still “should be coating that virus with antibody and therefore helping prevent excessive downstream transmission,” Kedl says. And a virus coated with antibodies won’t be as infectious as a virus not coated in antibodies.

Scant evidence for easy transmission of breakthrough infections

In Provincetown, Mass., this summer, a lot of vaccinated people got infected with the coronavirus, leading many to assume that this was an example of vaccinated people with breakthrough infections giving their infection to other vaccinated people.

Kedl isn’t convinced.

“In all these cases where you have these big breakthrough infections, there’s always unvaccinated people in the room,” he says.

In a recent study from Israel of breakthrough infections among health care workers, the researchers report that in “all 37 case patients for whom data were available regarding the source of infection, the suspected source was an unvaccinated person.”

It’s hard to prove that an infected vaccinated person actually was responsible for transmitting their infection to someone else.

“I have seen no one report actually trying to trace whether or not the people who were vaccinated who got infected are downstream — and certainly only could be downstream — of another vaccinated person,” Kedl says.

There’s new laboratory evidence supporting Kedl’s supposition. Initially, most vaccine experts predicted that mRNA vaccines like the ones made by Pfizer and Moderna that are

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