Genesee County health official says the state refused to help with Legionnaires' disease spike

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FLINT (WJRT) - (02/05/16) - A top Genesee County health official says the state did nothing when he repeatedly alerted them about an extreme spike in Legionnaires' disease cases.

He handed over hundreds of emails exclusively to ABC12, showing just how long he's been asking state agencies for help.

Thursday, we reported that the state knew about the uptick in Legionnaires' cases since last winter, but the internal emails show it was long before that.

Jim Henry, with the Genesee County Health Department, says when he started seeing dozens of cases by the fall 2014, he asked the state for help and guidance.

He says they declined to intervene and it went on for months.

Henry says it was fairly clear to his staff at the county level that there was a link between the surge in cases and the switch to the Flint River water in April of 2014.

That is why he was almost begging in some emails that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality get involved. They are the experts of large scale water systems.

They denied his requests, forcing Henry to consult with Legionella experts at university's and the Center for Disease Control.

Finally, months after his initial requests for help, Henry says the state health department listened - at least temporarily.

Henry says his team started to get close to finding a scientific link between the river water and Legionnaires' cases, but when that happened, an employee with the state health department declared "the outbreak is over" in June of 2014.

Henry says that is impossible because after that declaration, dozens more people came down with the disease.

We know that since the switch to Flint River water, there have been nine deaths due to Legionnaires'.

Henry's theory is that the state was trying to protect the decision to switch to the river.

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