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CDC study says 1 in 5 Legionnaires' disease cases linked to health care facilities

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The Centers for Disease Control is out with a new national study on Legionnaires' disease and health care facilities.

It points to plumbing in hospital, nursing homes and other health care facilities as potential sources for the disease.

The CDC examined nearly 3,000 cases in 20 states, including Michigan, from 2015. The study found one in five cases could be linked to health care facilities.     

“You can picture hospitals that tend to be quite large nowadays, have a lot of really sick patients, needing to be really careful how they work to control Legionnaires' disease,” says Cynthia Whitney, the Chief of the CDC’s Respiratory Diseases Branch. 

From 2014 to 2015, a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Genesee County sickened dozens and left 12 people dead.

From 2014 to 2015, a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Genesee Countysickened dozens and left 12 people dead. Half the cases in the Genesee County outbreak havelinks to a Flint hospital.

Officials at Flint’s McLaren Hospital insist their plumbing was not to blamefor the deadly outbreak. They point instead at Flint’s improperly treated drinking water during that period. Legionnaires' disease cases fell sharply after Flint’s drinking water source was switched away from the Flint River in late 2015. 

The CDC's Whitney declined to comment on the Genesee County outbreak. 

She did stress that health care facilities must take steps to reduce the potential for Legionella bacteria to establish in their water systems.

“Every health care facility needs to make sure they have a water management system in place and be taking actions now to prevent even that first case,” says Whitney.

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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