DETROIT, MI — A spike in cases of Legionella bacteria has been discovered in the Flint area, Gov. Rick Snyder and a pair of Health and Human Services Department officials announced Wednesday.
Officials said there’s no evidence of a clear link between the outbreak and the water system change that’s caused an uproar over elevated lead levels found in Flint children.
From June 2014 to March 2015, 45 cases of Legionella bacteria were confirmed in Genesee County, according to the state Health and Human Services Department Director Nick Lyon.
Seven of those cases were fatal.
From May 2015 to November 2015, 42 cases were confirmed in Genesee county.
Three of those were fatal.
Chief Medical Executive for the Health and Human Services Department Eden Wells said “87 cases is a lot. That tells us that there is a source there that needs to be investigated.”
Snyder declared a state of emergency in Flint earlier this month because of the city’s lead in water crisis, apologizing for the state’s role in rising lead levels in Flint water and in the blood of young children.
The city changed its water source to the Flint River in April 2014. Following the switch, residents began complaining about discoloration and the water’s taste and smell. The city initially struggled with bacteria levels and the presence of a disinfectant byproduct, TTHM, in the water.
Then, in September, a Flint pediatrician released results of her study that showedrising blood lead levels in children in certain areas of the city. The state initially disputed her findings but later corroborated them based on state data.
The city eventually switched back to receiving water via the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which gets its water from Lake Huron.
Those developments all occurred while the city was being run by an emergency manager appointed by the governor.
Tuesday evening, Jan. 12, Snyder activated the National Guard to respond in Flint to his declaration of an emergency. The governor’s spokesman has said the activation marks just the second time Snyder has taken such an action, last activating the National Guard in 2012 to assist with the Duck Lake Fire.
Snyder has also asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help in coordinating a plan aimed at solving Flint’s water crisis.
The governor said Wednesday in a Detroit press conference that the decision to send in the National Guard was not related to the spike in Legionnaires’ disease cases.
About 30 National Guardsmen were expected to move into Flint to help distribute water filters and other supplies.
“We’re going to look at the staffing levels to make sure we keep up a high level of activity and availability in terms of resources,” Snyder said.
More on the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak here.
More on the Flint water crisis here.