Feb
12
2016
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McLaren

Don Kooy, president of McLaren Hospital, and experts say that they suspect the Flint River as the source of Legionella bacteria that were found in the hospital’s water system over a year ago.

Kooy was surprised that, although the bacteria were discovered over a year ago, the health agencies did not inform the public of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Genesee County until just a few weeks ago.  Flint residents’ complaints of dirty tap water had been going on for some time, but little information was provided to the public.

“It’s a public health issue,” said Kooy. “There were people in the city of Flint seeing brown water. It would seem logical that there would have been public reporting or public awareness about the Legionella situation.”

To date, there have been t least 87 Legionnaires’ disease cases and nine deaths due to Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County.

To read more about this story, please click here.

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 5:58 pm
Feb
11
2016
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Genesee County health dept

53 pages of e-mails released by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) shows the concern over water quality in Genesee County and the potential of Legionnaires’ disease.

MDHHS logo

The MDHHS was aware of the spike in Legionnaires’ disease cases in Genessee County since at least October 2014.  From the e-mails, it appears that the Genesee County Health Department was going to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rather than communicating with the state health department.

A February 2015 e-mail from Shannon Johnson of the MDHHS shows the state health department’s frustrations over seven months of trying to get Genesee County to work with the state agencies rather than the CDC.

To read more about this story, please click here.

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 5:10 pm
Feb
05
2016
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Portuguese researchers published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine on February 4, 2016 suggesting that they have found a case in which Legionella bacteria were transmitted person-to-person.

The case involves a 48-year-old man who works as a maintenance worker at an industrial cooling tower complex.  He became infected with Legionella pneumophila in October 2014 and was one of the first cases involved in a cluster of cases in Vila Franca de Xira, Portugal.

The man lived with his 74-year-old mother and when he developed respiratory symptoms including severe cough, she took care of him.  Approximately two weeks later, the man’s mother also became ill and was admitted to the hospital where she was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.

The mother ultimately died on December 1, 2014 and her son died on January 7, 2015.

The patients’ home in Porto was tested for Legionella and found to be negative.  Person-to-person transmission of Legionella is suspected due to the close contact and severe cough of the son to his mother.

A US expert urged that this case study should be interpreted with caution, however.

“While this case report sheds new light on a potential concern for person-to-person transmission for Legionnaires’ disease, it’s important to realize that the primary mode of transmission continues to be via inhalation of infected aerosols from cooling towers associated with large-scale air conditioning and ventilation units,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

To read more about this story, please click here.

 To read the full article in the New England Journal of Medicine, please click here.
Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 3:14 pm
Jan
26
2016
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   change-of-season

    Since beginning the investigation into the Flint Water Crisis, Governor Snyder has assembled a Flint Water Advisory Task Force which has advised and implemented strategies to combat the outbreak and administer aid where needed. This has been very important to the recovery of the city, but the task force has also issued warnings about the future.

Last Friday, Gov. Snyder’s task force predicted a rise in the number of Legionnaires’ disease cases in the Spring. Legionella bacteria thrive in warmer temperatures, and the transition from Winter to Spring could be a catalyst for Legionella proliferation

Mark Bashore did an interview with Dr. Eden Wells, the chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, who made some observations about different risk factors and some recommendations on how to best avoid the problem in the future:

  • Identify any buildings with water systems that could have potential risks (i.e. plumbing systems that pool water)
  • Larger facilities generally have a greater risk of Legionella
  • Facilities with old/immuno-suppressed populations are more at risk than others
  • Ensure that a Water Safety Plan is in place, and that adequate chlorination of any water fixtures is maintained
  • Self-contained water systems are more at risk than open water systems

In addition to current aid efforts, Dr. Wells is also concerned about the future of Flint and the widespread impact that the water crisis could have on the younger population. It is hard to determine the exact number of children who were exposed to lead, but having all children tested would be a large step in determining the scope of the problem. Some programs may need to be implemented in upcoming years to account for the damage done.

Dr. Wells also asserted that, despite ambiguity about where the Legionella may have originated, she believes that the change from Detroit City water to the Flint River led to conditions that were “ripe” for the growth of Legionella.

To listen to the WKAR interview between Mark Bashore and Dr. Eden Wells, please follow the link: here

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 4:57 pm
Jan
22
2016
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635889327130443649-DFP-Flint-spike-Legionnaires-disease-CHART-PRESTO.jpg

(Photo: Martha Thierry Detroit Free Press, Tribune News Service)

    The Michigan Department of Health has made a recommendation to any media outlets reporting on the Flint water crisis to report that 9 people, not 10, died due to symptoms resulting from Legionnaires’ disease. This distinction is important because it helps to keep reporting factual, and reduces the ambiguity when determining the cause of death of the victims with comorbid health issues.

    For example, an elderly gentleman with multiple health issues may contract Legionnaires’ disease and later pass away, but his passing may not have been specifically due to the Legionnaires’ disease. The notice that the Michigan Department of Health issued showed that 9 people conclusively died from Legionnaires’ Disease, while the remaining 1 person died from some other comorbid health issue.

    By clarifying the cause of death for these individuals, the Michigan Health Department is helping to reduce any journalistic misrepresentation and prevent unnecessary uproar when discussing the number of victims in the Flint water crisis.

For further info, please see the Detroit Free Press article located: here

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 4:54 pm
Jan
21
2016
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Florida Hospital Orlando

Florida Hospital Orlando’s water system is undergoing remediation after testing positive for Legionella bacteria last week.

So far, no patients at the hospital have tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease.  Hospital officials also said that the hospital’s water is safe to drink.

At-risk patients of the hospital are being tested for Legionella and hospital staff have been instructed to take extra measures to prevent vulnerable patients from contracting Legionnaires’ disease.

Florida Hospital Orlando’s most recent incident with the pneumonia-causing bacteria occurred in late 2015 when a patient tested positive for Legionella.

To read more about this story, please click here.

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 5:44 pm
Jan
19
2016
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   Flint Water

    The health crisis that developed over the past year in Flint, Michigan has been widely publicized due to it’s devastating impact on the population of the city, and the clear missteps taken by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) when implementing the switch from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a source of water. The corrosive water of the Flint River deteriorated old lead water systems resulting in a rush of contaminated water to the Flint population. Since then, a spike in Legionnaires’ disease cases, lead poisoning, and numerous other health issues have been major concerns prompting President Obama to declare a state of emergency in Genesee County on January 16th, 2016 allowing emergency aid funds to be directed towards providing clean bottled water to the city.

Although it’s clear that the increase in the number of Legionnaires’ disease cases correlates to the change in water source, there may be a few different explanations why this happened. The water in the Flint River, like many rivers, can naturally house the Legionella bacteria. The MDEQ did not properly treat or test the water when it entered the city and therefore it could have come directly from the river. However, the water being pumped from the Flint River was also channeled through a maze of old lead pipes, many of which had not been used in years. Legionella bacteria may have been present in these old pipes and connected with the water when it was pumped through. Regardless of the means by which the Legionella bacteria made its way into Flint, it has harmed a large group of individuals.

    From June 2014 to November 2015, 87 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported with 10 of those cases resulting in death. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) denies that there is any evidence linking the water source switch and the outbreak, but an article by MLive Media Group purports that the officials in charge of the project were aware of the risk, but did not present them to the public. 

    An article from the Detroit Free Press indicated that, as of November 2015, 4 families have filed a lawsuit against state and local officials citing gross negligence resulting in a variety of serious health problems. Of the health problems that arose, the most pressing seems to be the widespread spike in lead levels which can have lifelong effects on developing young children. Legionnaires’ disease is also a serious issue, but usually affects older or immuno-suppresed populations. Typically government entities are protected from lawsuits by an immunity statute that prevents citizens from suing government programs that they think are not being run properly. However, some circumstances such as “gross negligence” constitute acceptable grounds to file suit, which is what some families in Flint have done. 

    Flint is under harsh scrutiny due to the negligence of its officials, and rightfully so. While the move to source water from Flint River was intended as a temporary measure, it is clear that the efforts put in to ensure the safety of the citizens in Flint were abysmal. 

For Further Reading Please see the articles below:

MDEQ Director Dan Wyant Resigns

State of Emergency Declared

Legionnaires Disease Kills 10 Since Water Change

Flint Families File Lawsuit

United Way Estimates $100M cost for Child Aid

Public Not Told of Legionnaires’ Disease Risk

Wikipedia Article

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 3:33 pm
Jan
12
2016
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Steam Shower

   Taking a shower is a staple of personal hygiene, and is generally considered a necessity. It is important to stay clean, and showers provide us with that luxury, but the environment that cleans us can also house a number of harmful substances and organisms if not properly maintained.

Mirror posted an article detailing a few different ways “your shower could kill you”, and while the article is a little more alarmist than necessary it does provide some interesting facts on a few different bacteria, fungi, and pathogens that can help identify preventative measures. Additionally, the article identifies which populations are the most susceptible to different organisms/bacteria, and some treatment suggestions.

One of the harmful organisms mentioned in the article is the Legionella bacterium. Legionella thrive in hot water, and typically infect through the inhalation of aerosolized water droplets containing the bacteria. A large portion of documented Legionnaires’ disease cases originate in a shower or hot tub when the water is hot enough to produce steam.

The risk of getting Legionnaires’ disease in general is low, but there are a few things that can help to reduce the risk even more. Periodically cleaning your shower head is one of the most important and simple things that can be done. Stagnant water left inside shower heads can generate biofilm and increase the risk of coming in contact with a number of different harmful bacteria, not just Legionella.

Cleaning your shower head isn’t necessary every time you take a shower, but it is important to occasionally make sure that the water you’re bathing in is as clean as you think it is.

Please see the Mirror article: here

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 5:48 pm
Jan
11
2016
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Babes-Music-Bar-Patio

Corey Gutwasser, a 25-year-old in Lakeville, Minnesota is out of his medically induced coma that he was put in last month due to Legionnaires’ disease.

According to the University of Minnesota Medical Center, he was exposed to Legionella bacteria in November and was put on life support in December, but is now in stable condition.

Gutwasser’s mother, Melanie Buetow, said that her son will need physical rehabilitation to relearn how to talk and eat.

The Minnesota Department of Health conducted an investigation and cited Babe’s Bar and Grill in Lakeville as a potential source of Gutwasser’s Legionnaires’ disease.  Gutwasser worked at the restaurant as a dishwasher and a patron of the restaurant was also hospitalized for Legionnaires’ disease.

“We investigated immediately and determined there was not an imminent risk to the public health,” said Doug Schultz, an Information Officer with the Department of Health. “Nothing was found at the restaurant that made us concerned that there could be widespread problems.”

The restaurant worked with both the state and the City of Lakeville to remediate the water system.

To read more about this story, please click here.

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 5:58 pm
Jan
07
2016
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Elgin_Illinois_map

School officials in Elgin, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, are considering a more intensive Legionella testing schedule after three schools were shut down due to the bacteria last year.

The Elgin Courier-News found that Essential Water Technologies, the water treatment company for School District U-46, recommended quarterly Legionella testing for cooling towers.  School officials want even more stringent testing schedules to err on the side of caution; however, no timeline is set.

In September 2015, three schools and an administration center in the Elgin were shut down due to high levels of Legionella in cooling towers.  3,000 students were evacuated.

To read more about this story, please click here.

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 4:18 pm