Officials see rise of Legionaire’s disease in Flint area; 9 deaths

Posted at 4:01 PM, Jan 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-13 16:01:41-05

FLINT, Mich. — Michigan health officials say there’s been an increase in Legionnaires’ disease cases during periods over the past two years in the county where Flint is located.

The Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday it can’t conclude that the increase is related to the water crisis Flint, where drinking supplies became contaminated with lead after the city began drawing from the Flint River in April 2014.

The state is responding to it as an emergency.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria that infect the lungs.

Health officials reported 45 confirmed cases, including seven associated deaths, in Genesee County from June 2014 to March 2015. In 47 percent of the cases, the water source at the primary residence was from the Flint River. The other half of the cases had been at a healthcare facility.  Ten people had no exposure to Flint water or a healthcare facility.

A comparative chart officials provided shows only 21 cases reported in all of 2012 and 2013.

Officials also said they had preliminary data indicating 42 cases of Legionnaires’ disease between May 2015 and November 2015, with three deaths.

Most people exposed to Legionella do not get sick according to the MDHHS.  The elderly and people with other health issues are at a higher risk of getting sick from the bacteria.

Michigan National Guard leaders began arriving in the city Wednesday to help distribute bottled water, filters and other supplies. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also approved a request by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, whose administration has come under fire for how it handled concerns about the water, to coordinate a recovery plan.

Gov. Rick Snyder, while touring the auto show in Detroit on Tuesday was faced tough questions about the ongoing crisis. Snyder was asked if it will wind up defining his legacy, Snyder said it wouldn’t.

“This isn’t my legacy. It is part of my legacy,” he told reporters. “I am responsible for the entire state operations, but there are many other good things going on and we’re working hard to recover from this.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.