Warnings of Legionella Bacteria as Temperatures Rise

The unseasonably warm temperatures being experienced at this time will elevate the need for precautions taken against legionella bacteria. The US Department of Health and Human Services along with Genesee County DHHS and MDHHS are issuing warnings and answering questions from the concerned public.

Photo credit: NaturalSociety.com

Photo credit: NaturalSociety.com

The change in Flint’s water supply to the warmer waters of the Flint River is suspect (yet to be confirmed) in the spike of Legionnaire’s Disease cases experienced in 2014 experienced after the April 2014 switch.

In total, there were 87 confirmed Legionnaires’ cases from June 2014 through October 2015. Of the 87 confirmed cases, nine people died.

MDHHS is working various agencies including the Center for Disease control to help put in preventative methods at local hospitals, nursing home and buildings with more than 10 stories. The agencies are helping implement water supply monitoring tools adding disinfectant to water in various places as a prevention tool including adding more chlorine that inhibits the growth of Legionella.

“As part of the U.S. Government response in Flint, we are collaborating with MDHHS and the Genesee County Health Department to make sure as many Legionnaires’ disease cases as possible are prevented in the future,” said Nancy Messonnier, Deputy Director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

The “seasonality” of legionella is tied to increasing water temperatures and stagnant waters. It is extremely important to change filters on humidifiers, including those attached to furnaces as the water in these does not have a constant flow.

Legionella Risk – Information from Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Most healthy people do not become infected with Legionella after exposure. People at higher risk of getting sick are:

  • Older people (usually 50 years or older)
  • Current or former smokers
  • People with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema)
  • People with a weak immune system from diseases like cancer, diabetes, or kidney failure
  • People who take drugs that suppress (weaken) the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy)

Legionnaire’s Disease Fact Sheet (PDF)

If you or someone you know is experiencing pnuemonia-like symptoms please visit a health professional and request an analysis for legionella bacteria through blood testing. 

Attribution: State issues Legionella warning in Flint as temperatures rise