The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is investigating a case of Legionnaires’ Disease (LD) in a patient who spent time in McLaren Flint Hospital.

This is part of an ongoing investigation of a cluster of cases reported in 2018 and 2019 with exposure histories that involve hospitals.

LD is a respiratory infection caused by Legionella bacteria.

LD is a severe infection that includes symptoms of fever, cough, and radiologic findings consistent with pneumonia.

According to MDHHS, the most recent case spent their exposure period as a patient at McLaren Flint Hospital and had an illness onset at the beginning of the month.

The identification of a potential source of these infections is on-going and involves local, state, federal public health agencies, and McLaren Flint Hospital.

Hospital administration has been cooperating with the investigation.

Legionella bacteria are naturally occurring in freshwater sources. The organism can multiply in man-made water systems such as cooling towers, decorative fountains, hot tubs, and large building plumbing systems.

After Legionella grows and multiplies in a building water system, water containing the bacteria can spread in droplets small enough for people to breathe in.

Individuals at high risk for LD include those who are age 50 and older, have current or past smoking history; or have an underlying illness or condition such as chronic lung disease, kidney, or liver failure, diabetes, systemic malignancies, or immune system disorders due to medications or disease. Recent travel and overnight stays in hospitals or other healthcare facilities can increase an individual’s risk of exposure to LD.

Patients with pneumonia should be tested for LD if they have any of the following histories:

  • Have failed outpatient antibiotic treatment for community-acquired pneumonia.
  • Are immunocompromised.                                            
  • Are admitted to the ICU.
  • Traveled within 10 days prior to symptom onset.                                                                                            
  • Were recently hospitalized.
  • Developed pneumonia ≥48 hours after hospital admission.

If you are concerned about possible symptoms of pneumonia you should contact your primary care provider.

McLaren Flint released the following statement:

"In light of the 100% increase in Legionnaires’ disease cases in Genesee County last year, McLaren Flint clinicians remain ever vigilant in our surveillance. Through these efforts, our physicians recently diagnosed the illness in one of our patients.

Per Genesee County Health Department guidelines, Legionnaires’ disease has a 14-day incubation period. Because this patient spent nine days in our hospital prior to the onset of symptoms, we cannot eliminate the possibility that the patient contracted the illness while at our facility. We are conducting an exhaustive internal investigation and continue to fully cooperate with our regulators.

We want the community to know we are doing everything in our power to ensure our hospital remains a safe and healing environment. Since the water crisis began in 2014, McLaren Flint has invested more than $2 million in our water management program, making it one of the most advanced and comprehensive systems in the region. Yet, despite these efforts, we continue to feel the effects of our community’s legionella issues.

With 155 diagnosed cases of Legionnaires’ disease since 2014 – including eight cases already in 2019 – it is clear our community has an ongoing problem that is much larger than our hospital. The overwhelming majority of cases in Genesee County involve patients with absolutely no connection to our facility. McLaren Flint will continue to follow stringent protocols for the testing and treatment of our water. We also urge public health officials to increase efforts to identify and address sources of legionella throughout our community.

As warmer months of summer approach – and the replacement of our city’s water infrastructure continues – the risk of Legionnaires’ disease will increase. Legionella bacteria can grow and be spread through air conditioners and window units, showers, hot tubs and decorative fountains. Local residents – particularly the elderly and those with compromised immune systems – should report any symptoms of pneumonia to their healthcare provider."

Further information regarding LD is available on the CDC website at cdc.gov/legionella.

Copyright 2019 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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