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Genesee County reports 13th, 14th Legionnaires’ cases

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Two new cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been reported in Genesee County, bringing the yearly total in that county to 14 cases, according to the health department.

Officials did not provide further information about the two cases, which are being investigated by the health department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the previous infections.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by the Legionella bacteria, which is found in warm, fresh water and can cause pneumonia or a milder illness called Pontiac fever. All pneumonia patients in the county are tested for Legionnaires’ as part of the health department’s “very strict physician guidance” for dealing with the disease, officials said.

The bacteria can be found in large plumbing systems, hot tubs, air conditioning units in large buildings and fountains, according to the CDC.

“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,” officials said. “Pontiac fever has similar symptoms but does not progress to pneumonia.”

People catch Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe mist containing the bacteria or if water “goes down the wrong pipe” when they attempt to drink, officials said. The bacteria does not usually spread from one person to another.

Filtering water does not remove Legionella bacteria, officials said. Flint residents at higher risk of infection, including the elderly, smokers, people with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems, are urged to drink bottled water.

Legionella bacteria has been found in some Flint homes by scientists attempting to identify the source of the city’s deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in 2014-15.

HFournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

@HollyPFournier