DETROIT (WJBK) - Governor Rick Snyder spoke with the media on Wednesday about health issues in the city of Flint. Originally, it was believed that it would be an update on the water crisis. Instead, it was a new, deadly disease.
Snyder said Genessee County went from 8 cases of Legionnaires in 2013 to 45 in 2014, 7 of them resulted in death. In 2015, there were 3 deaths attributed to Legionnaires of the 42 cases in the county.
In the midst of dealing with Flint's water crisis, this bombshell was released. It could be related to the state's decision switch the water supply from the Great Lakes to the Flint River in 2014.
"I'm going to share information that has been shared with the healthcare community in the past but hasn't really been put out to the public," Snyder said. "The numbers for the preceding years before 2014, we had six cases (in 2010), 11 case (in 2011), 13 cases (in 2012), and eight cases (in 2013). In 2014, we had 45 cases. And then in 2015, there were 42 cases."
The health department said it cannot say for certain if the increase in cases is because of the switch in water supply.
Legionnaires is a severe form of pneumonia and is developed by breathing in the bacteria, often from stagnant water. The elderly and people with underlying immune system problems are the most vulnerable. It spikes during the summer months in warm stagnant water found in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks and potable water systems.
Gov. Snyder said the health department in the county and the state has been aware but he was only informed of it recently.
"In terms of the spike, in terms of the specific numbers, I was told about this a couple days ago and I thought it should be shared, as part of this whole process," Snyder said.
The state says about half of those affected had Flint Water and a number of people had visited the same hospital prior to becoming ill. State officials say that location has since been remediated but the investigation is ongoing to determine if it's related to Flint's water crisis. If so, an already unthinkable health crisis - just got even worse
"That just adds to the disaster we're already facing with respect to elevated lead levels," Snyder said.
There is no change from the health department in regards to bathing. They said there is no evidence that the outbreak is ongoing.