The most disturbing aspect of the Flint water quality fiasco was the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Genesee County and its concealment from the public. Eighty-seven people fell ill and ten died, nine if you want to be fussy about one victim lingering more than a month after diagnosis. By MDHHS’ definition, it isn’t Legionnaires’ Disease if you linger longer than 30 days after your hospital stay. So one of the ten Legionnaires’ Disease deaths got scrubbed from the statistics.
AP is reporting that Governor Snyder’s immediate subordinates were discussing whether the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak was related to Flint water quality by March 13, 2015 Harvey Hollins III, Governor Snyder’s Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives Director, received an eMail from former MDEQ Communications Director Brad Wurfel referring to the Genesee County Legionnaires’ Disease cluster.
Far earlier, in 2014, Jim Henry in the Genesee County Health Department was emailing Flint city leaders, the Flint emergency financial managers, MDEQ, and MDHHS. MDHHS Chief Medical Executive Dr. Eden V. Wells said the June 2015 [Bohm] report on the first outbreak was shared with officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well. No one in this vast chain of communications felt compelled to inform the public.
Dr. Eden Wells replaced Dr. Matthew Davis as MDHHS’ Chief Medical Executive at the end of March, 2015. One has to wonder why Dr. Davis suddenly returned to U of M after only two years as the MDHHS Chief Medical Executive, in the midst of the first Genesee County Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak. Did he jump, or was he pushed? Perhaps MDHHS Director Nick Lyon found the career MDHHS bureaucrat Dr. Wells more accommodating than Dr. Davis? It was four months after Governor Snyder consolidated MDCH into the new MDHHS. However, nothing in the U of M faculty manual suggests that Dr. Davis would have had to return to U of M to maintain his status there.
The public was not informed until Governor Snyder’s startling statement on January 13, 2016. Snyder said he himself was not informed of the Legionnaires’ Disease cluster in Genesee County until “days before” his public announcement. Michigan’s lefties have pounced on this 10 month delay, insinuating that Governor Snyder knew well before his announcement. This may or may not be true, and people will draw conclusions according to their political predilections. Facts no longer matter on this question, even if you could penetrate the wall of obfuscation.
Director Hollins now says there was not enough information to take the issue to the Governor. Essentially, he is saying that no one could prove the source of the Genesee County Legionnaires’ Disease cluster, so there was no reason to disclose it to his superior. The other bureaucrats in this chain of communications also stayed mum, apparently following the same line of reasoning as Director Hollins.
There is a much bigger story here. One without any ‘he said, she said’ doubt.
It is now indisputable that a lot of CDC, MDEQ, MDHHS, and Genesee County Health Department bureaucrats knew of the first Genesee County Legionnaires’ Disease cluster by March 2015 and concealed it from the Michigan public for over 10 months. Throughout the entire second Genesee County Legionnaires’ Disease cluster .
clap code public health code, PA 368 of 1978, requires that doctors and local public health officials report any of a long list of diseases to MDHHS. Legionnaires’ Disease is on that list. Oddly, the Michigan clap public health code doesn’t specify exactly what MDHHS must do with those reports. MDHHS is not under any statutory obligation to warn the public of disease clusters, or even the Governor. This is quite a departure from laws and precedence which apply to the private sector. Failure to warn creates a prima facie case of legal liability for private sector doctors, manufacturers, stockbrokers, and other actors.
Contrast Michigan health bureaucrats’ response to the Genesee County Legionnaires’ Disease clusters with their past responses to previous Michigan Legionnaires’ Disease clusters:
Detroit Area – June 2013
The Michigan Department of Community Health reported a higher than normal number of Legionnaires’ cases occurred in the metro Detroit area in June. Oakland County Health division strongly advised residents to take steps to prevent growth of Legionella bacteria in cooling towers, whirlpool spas, humidifiers, outdoor misting systems, and other water systems that can harbor and transmit the bacteria. A common source for the cases has not been reported.
Selfridge ANG Base – August 2010
Legionnaires’ disease has been identified in six civilians who worked at or had visited an Air National Guard base in Michigan. The first three cases were diagnosed in late July. The sixth case was diagnosed on August 4th. Workers were moved out of the buildings believed to have been associated with the cases until the water was disinfected and tested, according to Army health command leaders. In July, A bacterial outbreak at the same base sickened more than 30 people.
Norton Shores – May 2008
In a period of about 30 days in April and May, three older men living in Norton Shores, Michigan contracted Legionnaires’ disease. One of the men died. As of the date of the news report, a source had not been identified.
Ford Dearborn Dyno Lab – April 2001
Two Ford Motor Company workers became ill shortly after repairing a ruptured pipe on 4 April. The pipe carried pond water to the Dynamometer Building in Ford’s Research and Engineering complex in Dearborn, Michigan. Legionnaires’ disease was confirmed in one of the men; the other showed elevated antibodies to Legionella bacteria. Both have returned to work.
Ann Arbor – December 1997
Margo Burrage, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital spokeswoman, said that a 68-year-old woman with Legionnaires disease was in serious condition in an intensive care unit at the hospital. According to Dr. Matthew Boulton, Livingston County medical director, this case appears to have no connection with the three recent Legionnaire’s cases at Brighton High School. “She appears not to have had any contact whatsoever with the school,” he said. “We’re relatively sure we have no link.” Just weeks earlier, three Brighton High School students contracted what appeared to be Legionnaire’s. Two girls who were diagnosed with pneumonia in October tested “borderline positive” for Legionnaires disease, according Boulton. 7 of 40 water samples collected by health officials contained the same strain of Legionella found in the two girls. Tests of another student with pneumonia indicated a slightly different strain of the bacteria. Antibiotics brought quick recoveries in all three students, Boulton said. Health officials flushed the plumbing system with hot water. Locker room showers were ordered closed by school officials until the results of health department follow-up water sampling indicated safety.
Within a month, after only a handful of cases in any one place, Michigan’s health bureaucrats were all over the media informing the public and asking for further information. Did not matter whether they knew the source of the Legionnaires’ Disease cluster. In fact, they were asking for the public’s help in identifying the source of a Legionnaires’ Disease cluster when it was unknown.
The Genesee County Legionnaires’ Disease cluster was actually two separate outbreaks; one ended in March 2015 and another started in June 2015 and ran to the end of 2015. An MDHHS investigation of the first outbreak was extremely suspicious of Flint water as the source of the outbreak.
When do bureaucrats charged with preserving public health conceal information from the public? When it involves sexually transmitted diseases? No. When it involves minor diseases? No. They warn the public and solicit the public’s help in containing almost any disease outbreak. And warn the public about disease outbreaks even when they are not communicable. Publicity is good for their departmental budgets, if nothing else. But they did not warn the public of either Genesee County Legionnaires’ Disease cluster.
It may be open to debate whether Flint water was responsible for the Legionnaires’ Disease clusters in Genesee County [hint: not really], but the existence of the Legionnaires’ Disease clusters in Genesee County was an established, ‘laboratory confirmed’ fact. A fact which was carefully and intentionally concealed from the public. For the first time ever in Michigan, a Legionnaires’ Disease cluster story was spiked by Michigan’s health bureaucrats. CDC didn’t let the cat out of the bag, either.
It is clear that the Michigan’s health bureaucracy did not serve Michigan’s public, rather they served someones political agenda. The bureaucratic malfeasance in the Flint water fiasco extends well beyond MDEQ, into CDC, MDHHS, and the Genesee County Health Department.
Every case of Legionnaires’ Disease in the second Genesee County outbreak cluster is the direct responsibility of those Michigan health bureaucrats who spiked the story of the first Genesee County outbreak cluster. Forty-two cases, four deaths. The public in Genesee County had no chance to protect themselves or seek early diagnoses. They were kept oblivious by agenda driven bureaucrats.
Our nitwit media are focusing on the roles of Governor Snyder, MDEQ, emergency managers, and city officials. These actors may or may not be able to claim ignorance as a defense, but Michigan’s health bureaucrats most certainly cannot. They knew.
Their silence did real physical harm here. Forty-two Legionnaires’ Disease cases, four deaths.