Do you remember reading any stories about a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Genesee County during 2014 or 2015, or this year before last Wednesday? I don’t, and neither does Google. Nor do companies which specialize in tracking Legionnaires’ Disease. It was a real shock when Governor Snyder announced Wednesday that Genesee County had recently experienced 87 cases of this disease, 10 of which were fatal.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services quickly put up a ‘FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE’ web page describing two sequential Genesee County Legionnaires’ Disease outbreaks. A first outbreak from June 2014 to March 2015, followed by a second from May 2015 to November 2015. This web page provides a dead link to a June 2015 preliminary report and a live link to a May 29, 2015 dated summary of the report created by Susan Bohm of the MDHHS Communicable Disease Division on June 4 2015. The Bohm summary was then modified by someone on Wednesday January 13, 2016 at 3:21:26 PM. The Bohm summary only covers the first, June 2014 to March 2015 outbreak, not the subsequent May 2015 to November 2015 outbreak which was developing as her summary was being written.
Governor Snyder said on Wednesday that he had just become aware of this outbreak. You are expected to believe that functionaries deep in the bowels of MDHHS were not communicating with either the Governor or their own superiors, for six months. The Bohm summary specifically and painstakingly categorizes those victims of the first Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak who were exposed to Flint water. Flint water quality was a blazing issue at the beginning of June 2015. This report and the Bohm summary didn’t make it to the Governor’s office at the speed of light? No one in the Michigan government would lie to the public, would they?
The fundamental question here is whether the Genesee County Legionnaires’ Disease outbreaks are related to the coincidental Flint drinking water quality – or lack thereof. Governor Snyder and MDHHS say such a connection has yet to be made scientifically, but they are investigating. Marc Edwards, a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech said “that it’s not 100% sure” that the outbreak of Legionnaires’ is tied to the change to Flint River water, but the association “looks very strong.”
Professor Edwards agrees with Governor Snyder and MDHHS that, even if the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak is associated with Flint River water sourcing, the risk is over now that Flint has returned to Detroit water. However Ms. Bohm’s summary declared the first June 2014 to March 2015 outbreak over, just as the subsequent May 2015 to November 2015 outbreak was developing.
Are outbreaks of Legionnaires’ Disease in Genesee County now history?
Did Flint’s October switch to Detroit water end the possibility of another outbreak?
Will corrosion control measures really suppress Legionella pneumophila in Flint water?