Flint Hospital Suspected River, Legionnaires’ Disease Link

According to cbsnews.com, the head of a Flint hospital that found Legionnaires’ disease bacteria in its water system more than a year ago said he and experts suspected the Flint River was a likely source of the contaminant.

Don Kooy, president of McLaren hospital, said he was surprised that Michigan and local health agencies didn’t inform the public about a Legionnaires’ outbreak in Genesee County in 2014-15 until just a few weeks ago. The outbreak occurred while Flint residents were repeatedly complaining about dirty tap water coming from the river, a crisis that ultimately caused exposure to lead and other health problems.

At least 87 Legionnaires’ cases, including at least nine deaths, were confirmed across Genesee County during a 17-month period. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said January 21st it cannot conclude that the increase in cases is related to the ongoing Flint water crisis nor can the department rule out an association.

Kooy said two cases could have bene related to exposure to Legionella bacteria found in the hospital. He said “it’s very difficult to know” when a patient is exactly exposed but both patients were successfully treated. “We were concerned that the city water was the source of it,” Kooy said, “but to this day I don’t think we could make a definitive statement.” Since then, McLaren Hospital has spent more than $300,000 on a water treatment system and also turned to bottled water for patients.