Genesee County has new case of Legionnaires’


The Genesee County Health Department is investigating a new case of Legionnaires’ disease, the 16th reported for the county this year, it said Tuesday.

Legionnair’s’ cases and deaths have been on the rise in Genesee County and Flint since the city changed the source of its drinking water in April 2014. While under the control of an emergency financial manager appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, the city moved from Lake Huron water to Flint River water that was untreated to prevent corrosion.

The failure to use corrosion control chemicals is believed to have caused lead contamination as well as an increase in cases of Legionnaires’ disease. From June 2014 through October 2015, 91 people contracted the respiratory illness and 12 died.

The disease is a respiratory infection caused by Legionella bacteria. These bacteria can also cause a milder illness called Pontiac fever.

“We want everyone to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease, which include fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, pneumonia and sometimes diarrhea and abdominal pain,” the Health Department’s statement said.

Pontiac fever, the department said, has similar symptoms but does not progress to pneumonia. Antibiotics are highly effective against Legionella bacteria.

Legionella bacteria, a waterborne disease, are commonly found in the environment. It usually is spread by man-made water supplies including showers, hot water tanks, cooling towers and spas.

Individuals can contract the disease when they breathe in a mist containing the bacteria. In general, the bacteria are not spread from one person to another, officials said.

The group most at risk of developing Legionnaires’ disease are older people with weakened immune systems and other underlying or chronic health conditions.

Filtering water does not remove Legionella bacteria. For those who are at increased risk and live in the Flint area, the Health Department suggests use of bottled water.