Source: https://www.freep.com, May 30, 2018
By: Kristen Jordan Shamus
It couldn’t have been just the switch in the source of the water that caused the 2014-15 Genessee County Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that sickened 90 people and killed 12, a report released Tuesday from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services suggests.
Rather, the state’s top health officials say that following a lengthy investigation, only one source of contamination was found that explains the majority of the increase in cases — a common exposure at McLaren Flint Hospital.
“No other large building with high-risk plumbing was identified as a common source of exposure,” said MDHHS spokeswoman Angela Minicuci, noting that the department also investigated contamination at other large-scale, high-risk facilities such as health care centers, grocery stores, shopping centers and long-term care facilities.
For the study, the MDHHS completed the histories of 83 of the 90 people who had Legionnaires’ disease in 2014-15. Of them, 51 had exposure to McLaren Flint Hospital.
“Of the 12 deaths associated with this outbreak, 10 of them had exposure to McLaren Flint,” said Minicuci. “That’s a pretty startling number.”
The Legionnaires’ disease outbreak of 2014-15 took hold at the height of the Flint water crisis, when the City of Flint switched its public water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Crucial corrosion-control chemicals were not added to the water, which allowed lead to leach from older pipes, solder and fixtures within homes.
As evidence came to light that the water might be contaminated with lead, government emails show efforts among some government employees to discredit the claims and cover up the problem, rather than take action.
More than a dozen state employees were criminally charged for their roles in the water crisis, including state Health Director Nick Lyon and the state’s chief Medical Officer Dr. Eden Wells.
Minicuci said the state’s investigation of the Legionnaires’ outbreak stopped before the City of Flint switched its water source back to Lake Huron in October 2015.
The outbreak ended, Minicucci said, “right about the time McLaren Flint super-heated their water system and they installed some secondary measures to protect against legionnella.”