Wayne State: Change in water source led to Flint Legionnaire's outbreak

File. Wayne State University has released new information connecting the switch in Flint’s drinking water supply over to the Flint River to the outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease.(Photo: Janice Haney Carr/MGN)

FLINT, Mich. – Wayne State University has released new information connecting the switch in Flint’s drinking water supply over to the Flint River to the outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease.

According to the research findings by the university’s Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership team, there was an increase in risk of acquiring Legionnaire’s across the entire water distribution system.

Eighty percent of Legionnaire’s cases from 2014 to 2015 are attributable to the change in water source and a drop in the chlorine level in the water.

Chlorine is used as a disinfectant in water systems.

After the city’s water supply returned to treated water from Lake Huron, the number of cases dropped to what researchers called normal levels.

The study further pointed out the rise in disease cases could not be accounted by the outbreak at McLaren Hospital alone.

“During the period when their water was supplied from the Flint River, Flint residents were seven times more likely to develop Legionnaires’ disease,” said lead author Sammy Zahran, professor of economics at Colorado State University. “After public announcements urging residents to boil their water, there was a lower risk of developing the disease, likely because people avoided using their water.”

The research team also said the particular strain of Legionella found in Flint residences is readily detected by common testing.

The finding of the team came after sampling water from Flint, surrounding Genesee County and Wayne County.

In response to the findings, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released a statement saying there 'numerous flaws' in the journal articles.

More information on the findings can be found here.

The full response statement from MDHHS can read below.




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