FLINT, MI — Public health officials are investigating a possible case of healthcare-acquired Legionnaires’ disease at Hurley Medical Center, a probe that’s being carried out in conjunction with the hospital.
The Genesee County Health Department announced the investigation in a news release on Wednesday, July 27, and Hurley said in a separate Wednesday release that it recently diagnosed a patient with Legionnaires’ who had been admitted to the hospital on July 12.
That patient’s incubation period included time at the hospital and at home, according to the county.
“Hurley is proactively investigating the home environment and per CDC guidelines is working with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Genesee County Health Department in identifying any potential healthcare-related exposures,” the release from the hospital says.
Symptoms of Legionnaires’ are similar to a pneumonia-like illness and can include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches, according to the county.
About one in 10 people who contract Legionnaires’ will die, but most healthy people will not develop illness when they are exposed to the Legionella bacteria, or they may develop the milder form of illness — Pontiac fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The county said in its announcement that out of an abundance of caution, anyone who has been a patient or visited Hurley since July 12 should monitor themselves for any of the symptoms of Legionnaires’ for 14 days after their last visit.
“If you do develop symptoms, please contact your primary care provider who can evaluate you for this and other diseases such as COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses,” the county’s news release says.
There has been an annual average of 26 Legionnaires’ cases reported in county residents from 2017 to 2021. So far this year, seven cases have been reported to the county and an eighth potential case is being investigated, according to Kayleigh Blaney, deputy health officer for the county.
Although the number of Legionnaires’ cases reported here has been on the rise over the past decade, case counts peaked during the Flint water crisis, when the Flint River was used as the city’s water source.
The MDHHS reported that there were 41 Legionnaires’ cases in the county in 2014 and another 45 cases in 2015 — both years in which the river was used for Flint’s drinking water.
In addition to questions about the role Flint water played during those outbreaks, McLaren-Flint hospital has been accused but previously denied responsibility for the outbreaks that occurred during the water crisis.
The CDC says Legionella occurs naturally in freshwater environments, like lakes and streams. It can become a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made building water systems.
Legionnaires’ is a waterborne disease, and the county said water systems and devices that aerosolize water, such as showerheads, cooling towers, whirlpool spas, and decorative fountains, are the common sources of transmission.
People are typically exposed to Legionella bacteria when they breathe in a mist or vapor that contains it.
Hurley’s news release says it has been at the forefront of developing water safety plans for years.
Read more at The Flint Journal:
She died 7 days after going to the hospital for a headache. Now hers is first Flint Legionnaires’ case scheduled for trial
Legionnaires’ showdown between state and McLaren-Flint on hold
Judge allows McLaren to pay less. Flint water settlement fund drops by $15M