MDHHS report on increase in Legionnaires' disease is inconclusive

By John Steckroth - Editor

FLINT, Mich. - The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued its report Thursday regarding the increase of Legionnaires’ disease during 2015 in Genesee County.

MDHHS said in a statement that it could not conclude that the increase is related to the water switch in Flint nor could it rule out a possible association.

From May through October of 2015, 42 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported in Genesee County. Data indicated four deaths were associated with the disease.

“While cases of Legionnaires disease are not expected in the winter, we remain fully engaged with the Genesee County Health Department as well as our federal partners at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect the health of Flint residents,” said Eden Wells, M.D., chief medical executive with the MDHHS. “We remain diligent in our efforts to proactively and appropriately address the potential for future cases.”

Legionella is a type of bacteria commonly found in the environment that grows best in warm water, such as hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, potable water systems and decorative fountains. The bacteria can cause Legionellosis, a respiratory disease that can infect the lungs and cause pneumonia. Legionella is not transmitted person to person.

Of the 87 total confirmed cases between June 2014 and November 2015, 31 people received city of Flint water.

MDHHS is working with the Genesee County Health Department, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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