22 January 2016 | SPL News

Water testing during an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County found Legionella bacteria was present in water at McLaren Regional Medical Center — and an expert hired by the hospital said this week the organism likely came from Flint River water delivered by the city water system.

In an email to The Detroit News, McLaren spokeswoman Laurie Prochazka confirmed the facility undertook “aggressive testing” of it’s water after noting an increase in Legionnaires’ there and at other hospitals in the spring of 2014. “Early test results indicated the presence of a low level of Legionella,” she said.

The medical center took action, and “All Legionella testing continues to show the McLaren Flint water supply is well within safety and quality standards,” Prochazka added.

Janet Stout, a research associate professor at University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and an expert on Legionnaires’ disease, said this week the germ likely entered the hospital via brown water, which was delivered by the Flint water system, laden with organic matter on which Legionella and other bacteria feast. McLaren hired Stout early on in the outbreak to assess the possible presence of the bacteria and recommend remediation, if necessary.

State epidemiological reports found more cases “associated” with McLaren than with any other source of exposure, but have not made a connection with Flint River water. The clash highlights the controversy over the state’s insistence the city’s contaminated water isn’t the definitive source of the outbreak.

Asked Thursday if Flint River water caused the outbreak, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said a “strain match” is needed “to make a definitive statement on environmental causation.” Officials have said it’s impossible to identify the strain because Legionella samples were never kept from the patients who had Legionnaires’.

According to Stout, studies have estimated Legionella would be found in about 50 percent of hospitals if water testing were required by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to Stout, studies have estimated Legionella would be found in about 50 percent of hospitals if water testing were required by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused in warmer months by a certain bacteria in warm fresh water that leads to pneumonia and sometimes death. The bacteria can be found in large plumbing systems, hot tubs, air-conditioning units and fountains.

Read entire article on Detroit News web site.

- Karen Bouffard, The Detroit News