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Michigan Experiencing Large Increase In Reports Of Legionnaires' Disease

(CBS DETROIT) - The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is collaborating with local health departments to investigate a recent increase in reports of Legionnaires' disease.

Between July 1 and July 14, 107 cases of Legionnaires' disease have been reported in 25 counties.

Legionella pneumophila, the bacterium that can cause Legionnaires' disease, growing on specialized microbiological media (BCYE). | Centers for Disease Control

While an increase in cases of Legionnaires' can be due to environmental factors, this increase shows a 569% increase from the 16 cases reported from the same period in 2020 and a 161% increase from the 41 cases from the same period in 2019.

The confirmed cases include 19 in Wayne County, 17 in Oakland County and in the City of Detroit, and 15 in Macomb County.

Legionnaires' disease is an infection with symptoms that include fever, cough, and pneumonia.

These cases are most common in the summer and fall when the weather warms, and stagnant waters provide the environment for bacterial growth. Still, this increase is much higher than expected for Michigan during this time of the year.

"Recent weather trends including rain, flooding, and warmer weather may be playing a role in the rise of reported legionellosis cases this summer," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health. "We want everyone to be aware of Legionnaire's disease, especially if they may be at higher risk for illness, and we ask that healthcare providers remain vigilant and test and treat appropriately."

Transmission to people occurs when mist or vapor containing the bacteria is inhaled and cannot spread from person to person.

Risk factors for exposure to Legionella bacteria include:

  • Recent travel with an overnight stay.
  • Recent stay in a healthcare facility.
  • Exposure to hot tubs.
  • Exposure to settings where the plumbing has had recent repairs or maintenance work.

Individuals at a higher risk of getting sick include the following:

  • People over age 50.
  • Current or former smokers.
  • People with chronic lung disease.
  • People with weakened immune systems from diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, or liver or kidney failure.
  • People who take immunosuppressant drugs.

For more information about Legionnaires' disease, visit here.

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