ONLY ON ABC12: Genesee County Health Dept. says state should have intervened in Legionnaires' outbreak

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FLINT (WJRT) - (02/10/16) - “We were sabotaged,” said Jim Henry, with the Genesee County Health Department.

Last week, we showed you emails from the health department begging the state for help. There was a major concern over a spike in Legionnaires' disease and a strong suspicion the spike was linked to the water emergency.

Wednesday, the person who wrote some of those emails talked to ABC12. It comes after the state released its own emails defending itself. Those emails can be viewed by clicking the link attached to this story.

ABC12 News asked Henry if some of the Legionnaires' disease cases could have been prevented and he said "yes."

There were 84 cases of Legionnaires' disease, nine of them deadly, since Flint switched to the Flint River in April 2014.

Henry, Genesee County's environmental health supervisor, saw the spike that fall and had a hunch it was tied to the water.

That's why he sounded the alarm to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Henry gave ABC12 News hundreds of documents that show the state health department provided some help over email, but the MDEQ was hands-off.

“The state has its own epidemiologist that specializes in Legionnaries’. These are the experts,” Henry said.

That expert never made a trip to Flint to investigate.

Henry says he needed help, so he turned to the Centers for Disease Control to help find a source of the Legionella bacteria and stop it. He says when the state found out about that collaboration, they put a stop because of bureaucratic reasons.

In June 2015, an employee with MDHHS declared the outbreak was over, but public data shows after that declaration, dozens more people got the disease.

“The outbreak wasn't over. It was ongoing and that was evident,” Henry said.

The following is his theory.

“The only part of this that makes sense is they were trying to protect their decision to switch to the Flint River,” Henry said.

One employee at MDEQ has been fired since the state intervened in the water emergency, but with the information that's out there, no one with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has even been suspended.

Henry says their negligence has gone under the radar.

"It's wrong, it's unethical and people have suffered because of it," Henry said.

He says many more people likely contracted Legionnaires' since summer 2014, but went undiagnosed.

Eden Wells, Michigan's chief medical executive, is now strongly suspicious the spike is linked to the Flint River.



 
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