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Legionella

MDHHS Director Nick Lyon
Steve Carmody

It will be another month before a judge decides whether the head of Michigan’s state health department should stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges.

Nick Lyon is the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.  He was in that job when a deadly Legionnaires Disease outbreak occurred in Genesee County in 2014 and 2015. At least a dozen people died.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) laboratorian George Gorman at left, along side Dr. Jim Feeley, while they were examining culture plates, i.e., Petri dishes, upon which the first environmental isolates of Legionella pneumophils had been grown.
Stafford Smith / Center for Disease Control / Wikimedia Commons

Health officials have reported a rise in cases of Legionnaires' disease this summer both nationally and here in Michigan. 

It's been 42 years since the first outbreak of the mystery disease that eventually became known as legionellosis — and it took some serious medical detective work to figure it out.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

This week, a judge will decide whether a top state official will face trial on charges related to the Flint water crisis.

State Health Department Director Nick Lyon has spent the past ten months listening as attorneys have argued over evidence and witness testimony in his preliminary hearing.

That ends Wednesday.

Judge David Goggins is scheduled to decide if Lyon will stand trial on involuntary manslaughter and other charges.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A judge must now decide if there is enough evidence to send Michigan’s health director to trial on involuntary manslaughter charges. Closing arguments came today in Nick Lyon's preliminary hearing.

Lyon is charged in connection with a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Genesee County from 2014 to 2015 that killed at least a dozen people. The charges against him are related to two men who died in 2015. 

Lyon and other state health department officials were aware of the outbreak in January 2015. But a public announcement was not made until a year later.   

The Old Main building at Wayne State University
Wikimedia Commons

Wayne State University announced Wednesday night that the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease was found in the cooling towers on three campus buildings and in the bathrooms of three others.

The university tested 16 buildings after an employee who works in the Faculty Administration Building was diagnosed with Legionnaires’— a severe form of pneumonia that can be caused by breathing in water droplets containing the legionella bacteria.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The state health department is out with a new report on the deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Genesee County.

The Michigan Department Health and Human Services makes an old claim linking most of the legionella cases to Flint’s McLaren hospital.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A disagreement between Flint water crisis researchers is escalating.

Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards has filed a complaint against a Wayne State University professor over claims he’s made about research into a deadly Legionella outbreak in Genesee County.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards is expected to testify this week during a pair of criminal hearings related to the Flint water crisis.

Marc Edwards’ research into Flint’s tainted tap water has been referenced several times during testimony in state Health department director Nick Lyon and Michigan Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells’ preliminary exams.

Now defense counsels for both state officials want him on the stand.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A Wayne State University professor testified today that the state health department director worried a study of a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak would upset the public.

At least a dozen people died during the outbreak from 2014 to 2015 in Genesee County.  

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A judge is considering whether to allow testimony that could link state health director Nick Lyon to an effort to limit a study into a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak.

Lyon is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office.  

Wayne State University environmental engineering professor Shawn McElmurry was part of a team studying the legionella outbreak in Genesee County from 2014 through 2015.   

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A top state health department official listened as a county health department worker testified in court Tuesday about state agencies blocking a Legionnaires Disease outbreak investigation. 

James Henry testified he started working on Flint’s water problems on his first day at the Genesee County Health Department in the fall of 2014. The outbreak killed at least 12 people from 2014 through the end of 2015. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Testifying in court today, the daughter of a man who died of Legionnaires' disease in 2015 testified she was not made aware of a deadly outbreak that was underway in Genesee County at the time.

Mary Anne Tribble says her elderly father led an active life, despite some health issues. But his health deteriorated quickly in June of 2015, following a trip to Flint’s McLaren Hospital. Tribble says she and other family members were with him when he died.

“That’s when we found out he had Legionella,” Tribble told the judge.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Democrats tried and failed today to get a congressional committee to subpoena documents from Michigan Governor Rick Snyder related to the Flint water crisis.

Questions have been raised about when Snyder learned of a deadly Legionnaires; disease outbreak.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is sidestepping questions concerning whether Governor Rick Snyder may have misled congress about when he learned of a deadly Legionnaires Disease outbreak.

Between 2014 and 2015, at least 12 people died after contracting Legionnaires in Genesee County. Dozens more fell ill with the bacteria pneumonia. Prosecutors have charged or announced their intent to charge six government officials with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the outbreak, which they say is connected to Flint's drinking water crisis.  

Appearing before a congressional committee investigating the Flint water crisis, Gov. Snyder testified under oath last year that he didn’t learn of the outbreak in Genesee County until January, 2016.  But as part of the criminal probe of the Flint water crisis, a top aide to the governor testified they talked about the outbreak a month earlier.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A court hearing concerning the state health director’s handling of a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak abruptly ended today amid questions about when the governor knew about the outbreak.

Governor Rick Snyder testified last year before Congress that he learned of the Legionnaires' outbreak in Genesee County in January 2016. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

An infectious disease expert says the public should have been alerted to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Genesee County sooner. 

At least a dozen people died from the respiratory illness between 2014 and 2015. 

State health officials were discussing concerns about an outbreak in January 2015. But the government did not publicly acknowledge the outbreak until January 2016.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Attorneys spent hours Thursday battling over what the state’s chief health official knew about a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak, and when. 

Between 2014 and 2015, a dozen people died and dozens more were hospitalized for the respiratory illness.  

In January 2015, state health department officials started circulating an email raising concerns about a rising number of Legionnaires' cases in Genesee County. But it was another year before state officials publicly announced the outbreak.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

This will be a busy week for Flint water crisis prosecutors.

A Monday court hearing will handle motions in the criminal cases against five MDEQ employees, including Liane Shekter-Smith. She was was fired from her job as head of the department’s drinking water unit. 

The five (Shekter-Smith, Michael Prysby, Stephen Busch, Adam Rosenthal and Patrick Cook) are facing a variety of charges, including misconduct in office, tampering with evidence, conspiracy, willful neglect of duty.  

Todd Flood
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

More charges may be coming in the Flint water investigation.

Special Counsel Todd Flood hinted at the possibility of new charges during a hearing for a defendant facing an involuntary manslaughter charge in connection with a fatal Legionnaires' disease case.  

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Defense attorneys oppose a move by prosecutors to consolidate Flint water crisis criminal cases.

Michigan's Chief Medical Executive, Dr. Eden Wells, is charged with “obstruction of justice” and “lying to an officer” in connection with a Legionnaires' Disease outbreak during Flint’s tap water crisis.  She made a brief appearance in court today in Flint.   

During the hearing, prosecutors raised the potential of consolidating all the ongoing criminal cases in the Flint water probe into one court. Currently, the 13 cases are spread among several different judges in 67th district court. 

legionella bacteria
Wikipedia Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

New data suggest people who have tested negative for Legionnaires' disease may actually have been infected and not known it.

That's according to research by University of Michigan professor Michele Swanson.

Swanson's research shows only one type of Legionella, "serotype 1," shows up positive on the traditional Legionnaires' disease diagnostic test. 

Legionella pneumophila
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Five local and state officials were charged with involuntary manslaughter Wednesday morning in the state investigation into the Flint water crisis. They are accused of failing to act during the Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Genesee County.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Centers for Disease Control is out with a new national study on Legionnaires' disease and health care facilities.

It points to plumbing in hospital, nursing homes and other health care facilities as potential sources for the disease.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

As the weather gets warmer, health officials in one Michigan County are urging residents to be aware of the danger of Legionnaires' disease.

Legionnaires' disease is a respiratory infection that can turn deadly.

Between 2014 and 2015, 12 people died of Legionnaires in Genesee County.  In all about 90 people fell ill.    Numbers declined sharply in 2016, but the number of cases was still higher than normal.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A former state health department official has been sentenced for her role in the Flint water crisis.

Monday, retired state epidemiologist Corrine Miller was sentenced to 12 months probation and 300 hours of community service.  She will also have to pay a fine of more than a thousand dollars. 

Map and charts of Legionnaires' disease in Michigan in 2015
Kaye LaFond/Michigan Radio

In 2014 and 2015, Genesee County saw the largest outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in at least a decade. The outbreak coincided with the city of Flint's switch from Detroit city water to water from the Flint River (and the subsequent lead exposure crisis).

 

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Researchers say new data suggests a potential link between Flint’s switching its drinking water source in 2014 and a deadly Legionnaires Disease outbreak.

McLaren Hospital in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State health department officials are ordering McLaren Hospital in Flint to comply with new recommendations stemming from a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak. 

A majority of the people who got sick and died during the Legionnaires' outbreak from 2014 to 2015 were patients at McLaren.

As part of its order, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services cites a document from a contractor hired by McLaren to test the hospital’s internal water system.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is demanding McLaren Hospital Flint and the Genesee County Health Department turn over records of several Legionnaire's disease cases from 2016.

The department wants "immediate action" taken to address potential legionella exposure problems at McLaren Hospital.

There were 17 cases of legionella in Genesee County last year.   

Zhu “Joyce” Ni, Min Tang, Pan Ji, Mariah Gnegy / Virginia Tech

Researchers from Virginia Tech announced the results of their fourth round of water testing in Flint today.

The tests show that lead levels continue to drop, that water disinfection by-products in the water are normal, and that the drinking water in the city continues to improve.

“We’re now approaching the end of the public health crisis,” said Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech University.

Edwards says even with the improvements, citizens in Flint should still be protecting themselves.

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