4th case of Legionnaires’ in Genesee County confirmed
Lansing — State and local health officials confirmed a fourth case of Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County, where medical professionals are watching closely for the pneumonia-causing bacteria after a deadly outbreak the past two summers.
Officials at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Genesee County Health Department said a fourth case this year of Legionnaires’ was confirmed Monday.
“Four by mid-August is much lower than what we’ve dealt with the last two years,” said Dr. Eden Wells, the state’s chief medical executive. “For every one we see, we’re always investigating it.”
There was an outbreak of Legionnaires’ in Genesee County starting in 2014 that sickened 79 people and killed 12. Forty-five cases resulting in five deaths were reported for the June 2014 through March 2015 period and 46 cases resulting in seven deaths for the May-October 2015 period.
The Flint-area Legionniares’ outbreak coincided with the city of Flint’s use of Flint River water from April 2014 until October 2015.
Health officials have never been able to conclusively say the river water was the source of the outbreak, but they also haven’t ruled out the possibility. Flint switched back to Detroit’s water system in October 2015 after high levels of lead were discovered in the city’s drinking water.
In 2013, before Flint started using the Flint River for water, Genesee County had eight cases of Legionnaires’ disease and just five before Labor Day, according to a state report.
The new case confirmed Monday involved a woman with chronic disease problems who had been recently hospitalized, said Mark Valacak, health director for the Genesee County Health Department.
Of the four confirmed cases in Genesee County this year, there have been no fatalities, Valacak said.
On July 6, Genesee County and state health officials confirmed the first case of Legionnaires’ disease this year in the county. In late May, health officials were seeing an increase across the state in the number of cases of the respiratory disease, but no cases in Flint or Genesee County.
Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, thrives in warm or stagnant water in large plumbing systems, hot tubs, air-conditioning units in large buildings and fountains.