According to MLive.com, the CDC has now found the first genetic link to the Legionnaires’ outbreak and the Flint, MI water system. Far from a cause of celebration, however, the discovery leads to thorny questions about the state of Michigan’s water system, including whether the Flint water system was the source of the outbreak, what the officials knew about the corrosive quality of the Flint River water, and when.
Researchers of Genesee County have sought this information from the very beginning of the Flint Water Crisis.
Ron Fonger at MLive writes:
Molecular testing by the CDC in late 2016 established the connection between a water sample taken from McLaren-Flint hospital and three sputum samples from patients who were diagnosed with Legionnaires’, officials with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services told MLive-The Flint Journal.
Legionnaires is a type of pneumonia caused by a bacteria named Legionella pneumophila, and there is more than one way to catch it.
“People usually get Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever when they breathe in a mist or vapor (small droplets of water in the air) that contains the bacteria. One example might be from breathing in the steam from a whirlpool spa that has not been properly cleaned and disinfected. Other sources include fountains and water sources in hotels, cruise ships, nursing homes, and hospitals.” – WebMD
Some experts rebuff the notion that the deaths can be attributed to the change in the water source, citing evidence that suggests the bacteria was present throughout the Flint water system, making it the real cause.
“Pruden’s study found Legionella levels up to 1,000 times higher than normal tap water in Flint, and said finding a patient who’s clinical isolates — or bacteria — matched the McLaren water sample without having been hospitalized there ‘suggests that same strain may have been elsewhere.'”
The answer is important to researchers, because without knowing the direct cause of the outbreak, they can’t figure out who may have been affected, and those affected may simply not know yet.
The only thing that seems to be able to coerce state officials into coming clean is the threat of criminal cases being brought against city employees. Governor Rick Snyder should be prosecuted for his role, given that the state changed the water source and did not inform the public about known issues with the purity of the water (or the fact that it contained poison in the form of lead) until an entire year after the initial problems were discovered.
Snyder says that he was “left in the dark” about the connection between the water source and possible infection. Even if that were a credible explanation (and it’s not), it fails to explain why meaningful work has not gone into reversing this unacceptable set of circumstances.
We, the people, deserve public servants who are not able to shirk blame for mismanagement and malpractice, and ones who actively seek to serve citizen welfare. And according to the New York Times, just because the lead levels have dropped, it doesn’t mean that the residents can drink it.
If Rick Snyder is not prosecuted, that is, if there is not even an investigation into the possibility of malpractice on his part, it will be another sad indication to citizens all across America that those who serve the public are above the laws they enforce.
Watch more about how the Flint water crisis got started below:
Featured image from YouTube video.