Most of the press concerning Flint, Michigan’s water crisis has focused on lead contamination and its devastating impact on many of the city’s children, but public health officials are also working to determine the extent of an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease likely tied to the corrupted water system.
Michigan health officials reviewing medical data concerning the Legionnaire’s outbreak have confirmed 91 cases of the disease during the 17-month period in 2014 and 2015, a span of time correlating to the period that Flint began drawing its water from the highly contaminated Flint River instead of from Detroit and Lake Huron.
The Michigan department of Health and Human Services also recently added two more victims to the list of the Legionnaire’s outbreak fatalities, driving the toll up to 12 from 10. The agency attributed the two previously unrecorded deaths to a glitch in the electronic reporting system.
Five of Flint’s Legionnaire’s deaths occurred from June 2014 through March 2015 and seven deaths during a second spike of the outbreak from May 2015 to October 2015.
In previous years, health officials typically confirmed 6 to 13 cases of Legionnaire’s disease in Genesee County, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Most cases of Legionnaire’s disease are traced to water and plumbing systems harboring the Legionella bacteria, which if inhaled can cause a deadly form of bacterial pneumonia.
Symptoms of Legionnaire’s disease include fever, cough, chills, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, confusion, loss of appetite, and respiratory distress. Anyone who suspects they may be infected should seek immediate medical attention.
Michigan health authorities told the Detroit Free Press that 55 percent of the Legionnaire’s cases stemmed from a hospital served by Flint’s water supply. Officials at McLaren Flint hospital confirmed to the Detroit Free Press that Legionella was found in the hospital’s water supply in 2014, and that corrective action was immediately taken.
Several of those who were sickened with Legionnaire’s disease and the family of some patients who died have filed a lawsuit against the hospital and current and former Michigan Department of Environmental Quality staff alleging not enough was done to prevent and stop the outbreaks.
Source: Detroit Free Press