Flint Residents Victim of Legionnaires’ Disease; Lead Poisoning

Two more people have perished in connection with the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan and the surrounding areas.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) released a statement yesterday afternoon announcing the increased death toll of the outbreak, which now stands at 12. 91 cases have been identified in total. Officials suspect that the Legionnaires’ outbreak may be related to the increased contamination in the city water supply.

The cases occurred between June 2014 and October 2015. The change that likely triggered the outbreak was a change in the city water supply. In a misguided attempt to save money, a city manager appointed by the state’s governor, Republican Rick Snyder, elected to no longer use Detroit Water and Sewage for the city’s water supply. Instead, the water supply was changed to the Flint River.

Immediately after the change, residents of the city noticed that their water turned visibly murky. What’s more, the water smelled.

The water had such adverse effects that it began to pull lead from the pipes in the city, many of which were old and had high lead components. A large number of children have actually been diagnosed with lead poisoning following the switch.

The symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease include diarrhea, loss of appetite, chills, fever, muscle aches, cough, confusion, shortness of breath, and lethargy. Legionnaires’ Disease has a much higher fatality rate than pneumonia, despite the similarity in symptoms. It generally takes a very large number of individuals acquiring Legionnaires’ before the illness starts to be diagnosed by health providers.

There are specific risk factors for developing the disease: an age of 50, individuals with chronic lung diseases, those with weak immune systems (such as individuals with HIV, AIDS, and immunodeficiency syndromes), and current or chronic smokers.

MDHHS remains “vigilant in identifying any potential case associated with the outbreak,” said Eden Wells, Chief Medical Executive with MDHHS. “To date, 91 cases and 12 deaths have been identified in total for 2014 and 2015 in Genessee County.”