Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced yesterday that 10 people have died from Legionnaire's disease in Flint, Mich. Eighty-seven cases of Legionnaire's disease have been found in and around Flint in the past 18 months.
State officials have not established a connection to the elevated lead levels found in Flint's drinking water, reports of which cost the job of the state's top environmental official last month and caused Snyder to declare a state of emergency last week.
"Eighty-seven cases is a lot," Eden Wells, Chief Medical Executive for the Health and Human Services Department, told MLive.com. "That tells us that there is a source there that needs to be investigated."
According to Health and Human Services Department Director Nick Lyon, the 10 fatal cases of Legionnaire's disease stem from Legionella bacteria found in surrounding Genesee County, dating as far back as June 2014. Legionella, according to the Centers for Disease Control, often presents itself as pneumonia (coughing, shortness of breath, high fever, and muscle aches), and is found in natural water, thriving in warm homes like hot tubs, but also large plumbing systems.
In September, an official at Flint's children's hospital reported rising blood lead levels in children in certain areas of the city, a year after the state switched its water supplies from Lake Huron to the Flint River, which many considered polluted, as a cost-saving measure.
State officials initially dismissed the lead report, something for which Snyder has since apologized. Flint has now switched its supplies back to Lake Huron.
But officials are still not certain the city's water quality problems have been fully eliminated. On Tuesday, Snyder activated the National Guard to distribute water filters and other supplies in Flint, but clarified Wednesday that the decision was not related to the Legionairre's reports.
Snyder has also asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.