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Michigan Public Health Officials See Legionnaires' Disease Rise In Flint Area

FLINT (CBS DETROIT/AP) - The Michigan Department of Public Health and Human Services is reporting an increase of Legionnaires' disease in Genessee County.

But the state is not able to say if the increase is connected to the ongoing water emergency in Flint.

The Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday it can't conclude that the increase is related to the water crisis Flint, where drinking supplies became contaminated with lead after the city began drawing from the Flint River in April 2014.

Since the summer of 2014, 87 cases have been reported with ten fatalities -- and about half the cases involve people drinking Flint water.

Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria that infect the lungs.

Is there a connection between the increase in cases and the water emergency in Flint?

Nick Lyon, Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, says while they investigate, Flint residents should remain diligent about their water usage.

"Not all the cases had exposure to the city of Flint water," says Lyon. "That said, the department is treating the situation with the same urgency and transparency as the lead response in Flint."

"There's no evidence of community-based transmission," says Eden Wells, Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Health and Human Services, "given that, there is no recommendation at this point to change any recommendations regarding bathing."

Residents are being asked not to drink the water, but officials say bathing is safe.

A comparative chart officials provided shows only 21 cases reported in all of 2012 and 2013.

Officials also said they had preliminary data indicating 42 cases of Legionnaires' disease between May 2015 and November 2015, with three deaths.

The city of Flint is getting heavy state and national attention and much-needed assistance as it deals with a drinking water crisis that began after officials switched water source in 2014 while under state financial management, and the tap water became contaminated with lead.

Michigan National Guard leaders began arriving in the city Wednesday to help distribute bottled water, filters and other supplies. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also approved a request by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, whose administration has come under fire for how it handled concerns about the water, to coordinate a recovery plan.

It's yet another challenge for a city of 99,000 people beset by numerous auto factory closures and thousands of job losses over the decades, and where about 40 percent of the population lives in poverty.


TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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