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Genesee County investigating death possibly linked to Legionnaires' disease

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Genesee County health officials are reporting the county’s first possible death fromLegionnaires' disease this year.

Legionnaires is a type of pneumonia that sometimes strikes people who are older, have a history of smoking, chronic lung disease or have poor immune function. Legionnaires' disease doesn't spread from person to person. Instead, the Legionella bacteria spreads through the air, often through contaminated ventilation systems in large buildings. 

So far this year, Genesee County has reported nine cases of Legionnaires. Officials are not releasing any information about the individual who died.    

According to theMichiganDepartment of Health and Human Services, there have been 88 Legionnaires cases statewide in 2019, with 8 cases proving fatal.

More than 30 Michigan counties are reporting Legionnaires' disease cases in 2019. Oakland County is reporting the largest number of cases, 13, so far this year. 

During the Flint water crisis, in 2014 and 2015, Genesse County recorded a massive spike in cases, resulting in at least a dozen deaths.

The source of the Legionnaires' outbreak remains in dispute.

State health department officials have noted that more than half the patients had a connection to McLaren Hospital in Flint. On the other hand, scientific researchers have drawn a connection to the Flint Riverwhich was used as the city’s drinking water source during the Legionnaires' disease outbreak. 

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.