Officials: False social media posts causing infection scare - WNEM TV 5

Officials: False social media posts causing infection scare

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A county health department said a recent string of false social media posts have led them to educate families about a multi-drug resistant respiratory infection.

Officials at the Genesee County Health Department released a statement on Wednesday, April 19 informing residents about Stenotrophomonas maltophilia. The department said there has been a “rising interest” in the infections and they want the community to stay informed.

A spokesperson with the health department said a series of social media posts and videos falsely claims a link between the bacteria and the Flint water crisis. The department said there is no increase in cases in Genesee County, but there are cases documented.

There is also no established link between the infection and the Flint water crisis, the department said. 

But Florlisa Stebbins, who created one of the videos, is blaming the water crisis for contracting the illness.

"I posted that as a warning to people," Stebbins said.

While Stebbins said she doesn't have written proof it came from her water, she continues to speculate claiming researchers from Wayne State and U of M have been in her home to do testing.

"As soon as I found out I had suspicion that it was from the water and I had scientists in my home for almost two years testing," Stebbins said.

Stenotrophomonas maltophilia is a multidrug-resistant organism that is most commonly associated with respiratory tract infections.

“While Stenotrophomonas maltophilia is a rare cause of infection, it is becoming more common among hospitalized individuals with weakened immune systems,” the department said.

Health officials said the bacteria is generally not considered dangerous for healthy individuals and usually only infects those who are critically ill or have weakened immune systems.

“Individuals who are at increased risk of infection include those with cancer, cystic fibrosis, HIV, neutropenia, recent surgery or trauma, mechanical ventilation, previous therapy with broad-spectrum antibiotics, and prolonged hospitalization (especially in intensive care units),” the department said.

Transmission of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia to susceptible individuals may occur through direct contact from several sources.

Most infections involve the respiratory tract.  Symptoms often include a cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain when breathing or coughing.

Mark Valacak, director of the Genesee County Health Department, said so far there is no evidence that Stebbins' illness is linked to Flint's water, but it is still a possibility.

"This is not something that's required to be tested for," Valacak said.

Stebbins said it is something the EPA should be testing form.

"Especially with what we've been through," she said.

For more information on Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, click here

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