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State demands "immediate action" on some Legionnaire's disease cases in Genesee County

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Two of the Legionnaire's disease cases in Genesee County in 2016 have been linked to McLaren Hospital in Flint.

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.   

Normally, state health department officials would work with local agencies to investigate the source of the illness. But a judge issued an order blocking Michigan’s health department from communicating with local officials. The order was tied to the state’s criminal investigation into the Flint water crisis. In December, the Michigan Court of Appeals lifted the order.

The department is starting its review of the 17 legionella cases in Genesee County last year.

This initial request for records is intended to determine if local agencies followed the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendations for responding to the suspect cases.

“The department must be able to hold local health departments, hospitals and health facilities accountable under the Public Health Code,” Nick Lyon, director of the MDHHS, says in a written statement. “Since we do not have confirmation that these recommendations have been implemented or the appropriate steps taken per CDC guidance, we must act swiftly to ensure the health of the public is protected.”

Officials with McLaren Hospital released a statement, saying in part:

"Given the MDHHS data, it is clear there is still a water issue in our city. We find the state’s fixation on our hospital to be an alarming refusal on their part to address the need for real solutions to our city’s drinking water problem – a problem that was identified by the state in 2014 and 2015, but remains unaddressed even today."

A dozen people died of Legionnaire's disease in Genesee County between 2014 and 2015. Dozens more were sickened with the pneumonia-like illness.

At the time, state health officials objected to Genesee County’s efforts to involve the Centers for Disease Control in the investigation of the outbreak.  

Flint’s tainted drinking water is a suspected source of the legionella bacteria.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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