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Pneumonia cases in Flint raise questions about official Legionnaires' death toll

black and white bacteria under microscope
Wikimedia Commons
Transmission electron microscopy image of Legionella pneumophilia, responsible for over 90% of Legionnares' disease cases.

There were 91 people who contracted Legionnaires' disease in Genesee County in 2014 and 2015.

It was a spectacular spike in cases in a county which averaged fewer than 10 cases of legionella over the prior four years.

Records show that 12 of those 91 patients died.

And, as we know by now, the burst of Legionnaires' cases came after April 2014. After Flint switched its drinking water source from the Detroit system to the Flint River, a switch that happened without properly treating the river water.

In her latest story for Bridge MagazineChastity Pratt Dawsey raises the troubling question: could that death toll from legionella actually be higher?

There was a big jump in pneumonia and flu deaths in Genesee County in 2014. How many of those could have been Legionnaires'?

And, even though health officials and hospitals knew of the legionella outbreak, why did they keep patients and family members in the dark?

Dawsey joined us on today's Stateside to talk more about these questions.

We were also joined by LaShema Marble. Her mother Bertie died in March of 2015. Her medical records speak of "healthcare-associated pneumonia."

It was only after her death that the family discovered a doctor's order to test Bertie for Legionnaires'.

GUESTS Chastity Pratt Dawsey is a reporter for Bridge Magazine. She tweets @CPrattDawsey. LaShema Marble's mother passed away in March of 2015. Though her mother's death was attributed to "healthcare-related pneumonia," Marble and her family discovered among her health records a doctor's order to test for Legionnaires'.

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