Michigan hospital allegedly source of Legionnaires' since 2008

McLaren Flint (Mich.) Hospital was a source of Legionella bacteria for more than a decade, according to CDC documents obtained by ABC affiliate WJRT

The 47-page letter titled "Investigation of healthcare-associated Legionnaires' Disease" was sent to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and is dated December 2019. Jim Haveman, former state health director, said he obtained the CDC letter after attorneys tied to the Flint water criminal investigation accidentally got a hold of it.

Legionnaires' disease, caused by Legionella bacteria, was an issue at the hospital from 2008 to 2019, according to the CDC letter cited by WJRT. The agency repeatedly mentioned "a particular strain of Legionella identified in the McLaren Flint water system has been associated with disease for more than a decade." Cases occurred before the hospital switched its drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.

The state reported 90 cases of Legionnaires' disease during 2014 and 2015, two of which were fatal, and has said McLaren Flint Hospital was the source.  

"It is unfortunate that once again — on the eve of a significant legal event — former state officials and their allies have chosen to manipulate the facts in [an] attempt to distract the public from the facts," a spokesperson for McLaren Flint wrote in a Jan. 13 email statement sent to Becker's.

"McLaren Flint, like countless other Flint residents, businesses, and nonprofit organizations, was significantly impacted by the far-reaching and damaging effects of the decision to transition the public water supply to the Flint River. Despite the selective sharing of information that has been publicly available for more than a year, there is clear and compelling evidence the Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks in Flint were much broader than one single hospital building. As multiple experts in peer-reviewed studies have concluded, our city's water infrastructure — and many buildings that depended on it to receive safe drinking water — had an ongoing problem with legionella that resulted from the decision to change the municipal water source.

"To suggest that McLaren Flint has been a source of a particular strain of Legionella bacteria associated with the disease for more than a decade is false and grossly misleading. Legionella is a naturally occurring bacteria commonly found in many older buildings with complex water systems. It has been found in the water systems of churches, universities, nursing homes and other buildings throughout our community. In fact, according to MDHHS' own data, 98.5 percent of Legionnaires' disease cases reported between 2016 and 2018 had no connection to any healthcare facility. 

"The fact remains that since the earliest days of the water crisis, McLaren Flint has done the right thing — transparently sharing information with public health authorities and asking for their guidance as cases in our community grew. As a result of our intense clinical surveillance along with our work with the current administration at MDHHS, we maintain one of the most comprehensive water management plans in the state. In fact, during the last year while cases of Legionnaires' disease were detected throughout the county, our hospital recorded zero cases.  

"It is disappointing that our hospital is once again being forced to defend itself against this false and misleading narrative advanced by these individuals and their defenders as they prepare to face criminal charges, in some cases, for a second time."

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