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Environment & Climate Change

New tests raise questions about the source of Legionnaires Disease outbreak

materials-illustration.jpg
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Illustration of Legionella pneumophila, the bacterium that causes the majority of Legionnaires disease cases and outbreaks.

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

The Centers for Disease Control found a genetic link between two Legionnaires cases and Legionella bacteria found at Flint’s McLaren hospital.  

A third case had the same genetic link, but the person had not been a patient at McLaren.

Amy Pruden is a Virginia Tech researcher who has studied Legionella bacteria in Flint’s water supply.  She says the CDC data points to potentially wider problem.

“Well, this is a significant find and another piece of evidence that links the switch to the Flint River as a drinking water source to the Legionnaires Disease outbreak,” says Pruden.

Pruden's own 2016 study found Legionella bacteria levels in Flint tap water were up to 1,000 times higher than normal.

State health department officials have focused their investigation on McLaren Hospital in Flint, where a majority of the people who became ill, and a majority of those who died, were patients.

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