Michigan’s health authorities recently confirmed that a tenth death was linked to a Legionnaires’ outbreak in Flint area. According to the report, the death occurred three months after the outbreak was declared officially over.
The DHHS said that the 10th victim was a Shiawassee County resident who was treated at a health facility in Genesee County. It is the 10th case of a Legionnaires’-related death in the county between 2014 and 2015.
Authorities suspect that the respiratory illness caused by water-born bacteria may be related to the time when the city had used water from Flint River.
So far, there are 400 reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Michigan. Dr. Eden Wells, the state’s chief medical officer, recently told reporters that she doesn’t anticipate additional cases.
Dr. Wells also linked the outbreak with the change in water. Nevertheless, laboratory tests couldn’t reveal a link between Flint River’s water and the disease. Moreover, a third of patients came from areas that were located outside Flint’s water system.
Dr. Wells added that researchers were planning to understand why the bacteria affect some patients and skip others. But a research team at Wayne State University is now looking for an association between Flint’s water system and the disease.
On the other hand, solving the mystery may be harder than thought because Flint’s water was never evaluated for Legionella. So, we may never know whether the 2014 outbreak was tied to the city’s water system.
The disease usually occurs in warmer months when Legionella can thrive in fresh water. The respiratory illness which in the most severe cases can cause a life-threatening form of pneumonia is caused by microorganisms dwelling in air-conditioning units and plumbing systems.
The tenth death related to Legionnaires’ happened after DHHS officials had said that the outbreak was ‘over’ in an official memo sent to state and local health authorities. Michigan has been under fire for not disclosing that the outbreak was ongoing.
Michigan residents learned about the outbreak Jan 13, 2016, when the state governor told them that he learned about it a couple of days before. Gov. Rick Snyder ordered the auditor general to start an investigation into how the DHHS had managed the outbreak.
From official records we learned that state officials knew about the spike in the Legionnaires’ cases since October 2014, while the correspondence from the governor’s office shows that Snyder’s ex press secretary was aware of the situation as early as January 2015.
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