A new CDC study reveals that New Yorkers living in poverty are at a higher risk from the potentially fatal bug Legionnaires’ disease.
The US based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recently published the findings of a nine year study into Legionnaires’ disease risk factors in New York called “Legionnaires” Disease Incidence and Risk Factors, New York, USA.
This valuable study gives a range of insights into the various risk factors for “community acquired” Legionnaires’ disease affecting New Yorkers. The report notes that the incidence of Legionnaires’ disease in the United States is increasing and that overall, cases of the disease in the city of New York increased 230% from 2002 to 2009.
In this report, global risk management experts Legionella Control International look at one of the more notable factors highlighted in the CDC report, the correlation between poverty and community acquired Legionnaires’ disease.
“Community acquired” Legionnaires’ disease is classed as instances of Legionnaires’ that have not been acquired in a hospital, healthcare or care home environment. The CDC study found a strong link between poverty and Legionnaires’ disease, with those New Yorkers living in the highest poverty areas being 2.5 times more likely to contract Legionnaires’ than those in the lowest poverty areas.
The strong link between poverty and Legionnaires’ disease could be attributed to a number of factors including:
Environment and Housing
Housing in areas with a high degree of poverty can often be of a poor quality and condition. With low owner occupier rates in New York, there can often be a problem with the transient nature of parts of the community, leading to very little investment being made into properties and their upkeep, which can obviously be a risk factor for the contamination and proliferation of legionella bacteria.
Underlying Health Issues
Residents of New York who live in the most deprived areas are statistically likely to die a decade earlier than those people in more affluent areas. Additionally, their shorter life span will also see them enjoying 15% less time in what is classed as ‘good health’.
Underlying medical conditions are a significant risk factor when it comes to Legionnaires’ Disease, with the vast majority of those people infected by the bug having at least one health condition such as heart disease or diabetes.
Other Factors to Consider
The CDC report indicates a particular disparity in ethnic origin and risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease, with non-Hispanic black people being most at risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease. The report does not conclude why this could be, but suggests socio-economic factors could be contributory, as could a higher predisposition to certain health conditions such as diabetes.
Unlike the UK, where the National Health Service (NHS) offers free at the point of delivery health care, this is not the case in the USA where traditionally there is a private sector funded insurance backed healthcare system.
With the US Census Bureau’s report “Health Insurance Coverage in the United States” indicating that nearly 15 million people in the USA are without medical insurance, it is reasonable to presume that this is a contributory factor to the increased risks of suffering from Legionnaires’ disease in areas of deprivation.
Legionella Control International are world-leading legionella risk management experts providing risk management solutions to organizations around the world.
The company is operated by a team of experts providing independent and impartial consulting advice on all matters relating to the control, management and prevention of Legionnaires’ disease, legionella and other water-borne pathogens.
Rob Boon, London legionella expert said, “It is absolutely shocking to see that cases of Legionnaires’ disease in one of the most illustrious cities in the world has jumped 230% in recent years. Outbreaks can be easily prevented, so it is saddening to realise there is a connection between poverty and contracting the disease in the USA. City authorities, commercial organizations and landlords need to urgently address this matter to minimise the risk to vulnerable New Yorkers.”