10th fatality confirmed in Genesee County Legionnaires' disease outbreak

Mar 18, 2016

State health officials have confirmed a tenth death connected to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Genesee County.

Dr. Eden Wells discusses the latest confirmed fatality in the Legionnaires' disease outbreak with reporters in Flint
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The latest case involves a patient from Shiawassee County. The patient wasn’t counted originally as part of the outbreak, because health officials didn’t know the patient had spent time in a Genesee County hospital

Dr. Eden Wells is the Chief Medical Executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service.   She says state health officials found the latest fatality during a review of all Legionella cases in Michigan in 2014 and 2015.

“They went and looked at all diagnosed cases in the state … and then linked them back to Genesee,” says Wells.

In all, 88 people contracted Legionnaires' disease in Genesee County during the past two years. 

While a specific source is unclear, there are suspicions Flint’s tainted drinking water is the source.

The outbreak roughly corresponds to the period when the city of Flint was getting its drinking water from the Flint River.  The last confirmed case dates to October 2015. That same month, Flint switched back to Detroit water.

But there are concerns warmer weather may lead to a new Legionella bacteria outbreak.

“We need to have doctors on the lookout,” says Wells. “We actually sent out updated clinical guidance just this week to physicians in Genesee County, as well as a modified version to all physicians across the state.”