Cases of Legionnaire's Disease create further concern in Flint

Courtesy: KNOE
Further concern in Flint (Courtesy: KNOE)
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FLINT, Michigan (CNN) - A public health crisis may have been flying under the radar in Flint, Michigan. The discovery of lead in its drinking water caught national headlines, but the less-known problem was the spike in Legionnaires' Disease that happened around the same time.

Legionnaires' is a respiratory infection linked to mist from water sources, and some victims say there was a cover-up involved.

Troy Kidd measures his loss, when he looks at his 3-year-old daughter, Jocelyn.
"I got a lot of great memories with my grandmas, my grandparents. She's never gonna have that opportunity," Kidd said.

His mom, Debra Kidd, died of Legionnaires' Disease in August, after going to Flint's McLaren hospital for a migraine.
"I still wasn't sure exactly what was going on. You know, just thinking 'okay it's heat stroke'. You're trying to wrap your head around it. What is going on, why is she, you know, sick? It wasn't until that Tuesday, I think that they said legionnaires," Kidd said.

The outbreak ended up being one of the largest in U.S. history, and it began around the time the state switched the city's water source to the Flint River, and failed to properly treat the water.

Experts believe the corrosive water was giving the Legionella bacteria a chance to flourish.

Cases soared, eventually reaching 87, and people were dying.

"Our whole team at the health department thought it's more than a coincidence that these cases started happening. This increase in cases started happening around the same time frame of the switch to the Flint River as the water source," Jim Henry, with the Genesee County Department of Health, said.

The cause of the outbreak may never be determined.

State officials knew of the spike in cases, but were worried about perception, as documented in an email - quote- "There have been numerous complaints about the flint water. Any announcement by public health about the quality of the water would certainly inflame the situation."

About two months before Debra Kidd died, the State Department of Health declared the outbreak over, and declined to call in help from the Centers for Disease Control, telling CNN- quote, "We were able to meet the epidemiological case investigation need in the county."

"I think it's a cover-up. I think it stinks. I think they knew there was more going than what they wanted to let on," Kidd said.

The state of Michigan says it's now investigating, saying it "engaged to support the local health department in accordance with the law."
Kidd is now suing the state, and the hospital and he's not alone.

Connie Taylor also got sick after visiting McLaren's ER, but she says doctors never told her it was Legionnaires.

"They did not tell me that. they did not tell my family that," Taylor said.

It wasn't until she demanded the hospital turn over her medical records that she learned the truth. The hospital told CNN it "acted in accordance with all statutory regulations.", and after discovering the outbreak, it installed filters and a secondary water disinfectant system.

Taylor has improved, but her kidney's failed. Now, she's on dialysis and hoping for a kidney transplant.

"I blame McLaren's. I blame them for the Legionnaire's, that they should have announced it to me, made it public. I blame my government for the water situation, because it all could have been prevented," Taylor said.

Legionnaires' bacteria infected at least 87people between between June 2014 and November 2015- far more than ever before.

At least ten patients have died.



 
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