Genesee County Health Department investigates possible Legionnaires' death

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GENESEE CO. (WJRT) - (06/06/19) - The Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) says it learned Wednesday, June 5 of a possible death in the county attributed to Legionnaires' disease.

The department says the investigation is in the preliminary stage and did not provide additional details about potential sources of exposure or information about the victim.

However, given the county and Flint's history with the disease, ABC12 talked to the chief public health advisor for the City of Flint, Dr. Pamela Pugh.

"In the city of Flint we know that there was an outbreak not too long ago, and so we're still closely monitoring the cases and definitely if there are deaths due to Legionnaires,'" Pugh said.

Pugh is referring to the outbreak of 2014-2015 when the pneumonia-like disease reared its ugly head at the height of Flint's Water Emergency. Dozens and dozens of people were sickened and 12 died.

It's not clear if this potential Legionnaires' death case is a new case all together or if it's connected to a cluster of cases in 2018 and 2019 that the state health department was already investigating.

RELATED: MDHHS identifies new case of Legionnaires' Disease at Flint hospital

"If what we're saying as a possible death due to Legionnaires,' which would be our first of this year, they (GCHD) will be able to let us know within two weeks if it is indeed a death due to Legionnaires,'" Pugh said.

Pugh says the city's relationship with the Genesee County Health Department is evolving and getting better.

"They changed their bylaws so that the chief public health advisor for the City of Flint can sit on the board of health, and as a member of that board, we look at the rates and the cases of Legionnaires' and then we can also talk about any exposures or anything we're seeing unusual as it relates to the water system," Pugh said.

Symptoms of Legionnaires' usually occur two to 14 days after exposure. The symptoms could include muscle aches, fever, headaches and shortness of breath.

Exposure can happen throughout the year but most likely in the warmer months.

"With the heat and the moisture it's conducive to the growth of legionella bacteria and that's any place," Pugh said.
Hot tubs, decorative fountains, health care facilities and hotels are considered usual sources, according to local and state health officials.

If you've experienced symptoms and have been around these usual exposure sites within the past two weeks, then you should contact your health care provider to ask about testing.

"The best thing is if people are having those symptoms to make sure that they are going to their physician," Pugh said.

Dr. Pugh says, according to GCHD, there have been nine cases of Legionnaires' disease this year across the county, and two of those appear to be residents of Flint.

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