Contaminated water provided to the citizens of Flint, Mich. caused the levels of lead poisoning among children there to spike, and now, with the city in a state of emergency, officials are planning to find out if the water also explains the dramatic rise in cases of Legionnaire’s disease.
In a press conference today, Governor Rick Snyder—who very well may be to blame for the entire fiasco—said that from June 2014 (two months after Flint stopped taking water from Detroit) to November 2015 (a month after the stopped), Genesee County, which contains Flint, saw 87 cases of Legionnaire’s disease, with 10 of those being fatal. According to state Health and Human Services Department Director Nick Lyon, 45 cases were observed between June 2014 and March 2015, with seven of those being fatal. The other 42 were found May 2015 to November 2015, with three of those being fatal.
Eden Wells, chief medical executive for the state’s Health and Human Services Department, said that “87 cases is a lot” and “that tells us that there is a source there that needs to be investigated.” Michigan officials stopped short of saying that the source is the dirty, lead-heavy water, but that is certainly the logical place to start.
Legionnaire’s disease—which can cause fever, headaches, shortness of breath and aching of the muscles—is carried by legionella, a bacteria found naturally in water. Per the CDC, the bacteria is usually inhaled through mist or vapor, and breeds especially well in warm water containers such as hot water tanks, hot tubs and large plumbing systems.
[image of Rick Snyder in 2014 via Getty]