Michigan's warmer months bring greater risk of Legionnaires' disease

Departments make health information availible to residents

By Gillian Cruce - Intern

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

LANSING, Mich. - As Michigan heads for warmer temperatures in the upcoming months, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services advises rising temperatures being ideal for growth of Legionnaires-causing bacteria.  

Legionella is a type of bacteria commonly found in warm water environments such as hot tubs, hot water tanks, drinkable water systems, and decorative fountains. When someone is exposed to the bacteria, it can cause Legionnaries' disease, which is a respiratory disease capable of causing pneumonia. 

Genesee County Health Department and Wayne State University are also releasing information for Flint residents about what one can do to protect themselves. 

"We have worked hard to coordinate the various local, state, and national groups involved in the effort to understand and manage the concerns about Legionnaires' disease in Flint," Wayne State crisis communication expert Dr. Matthew Seeger said. "Cooperation is critical to ensuring the best information is delivered in a timely manner."

While most healthy people do not get sick after being exposed to Legionella, there are some risk factors:

  • Being 50 or older
  • Being a current or former smoker
  • Having chronic lung disease (emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Having a weakened immune system from certain diseases (cancer, diabetes, kidney failure)

However, it is uncommon for children to succumb to Legionaries' disease. 

To protect people from Legionnaires' disease the Michigan Department of Health and Genesee County Health Department are working with buildings with very large water systems such as hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, and any other buildings with more than 10 stories. 

"It is important that our residents know the signs and symptoms of Legionaries' disease and that they seek medical attention right away if they become ill," Genesee County Health Department Officer Mark Valacak said. 

Contact a doctor if symptoms of pneumonia occur such as:

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • muscle aches
  • headache
  • high fever

Also include any information in regards to hot tub usage, nights spent away from home, or if a hospital visit happened in the last two weeks. Most patients can be treated successfully for Legionnaires' disease with antibiotics. 

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