- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

DETROIT (AP) - The first case of Legionnaires’ disease this year in Genesee County has been confirmed, according to state health officials.

The patient is over age 65 and has been hospitalized four to five days. Health officials were trying to identify where the person was exposed to the Legionella bacteria, but said Wednesday there is no indication it was through Flint’s water.

“With the preliminary information we have, we had to backtrack two weeks prior to the onset of illness and found the person was not in the city of Flint over those two weeks,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “The exposure likely occurred outside the city of Flint.”

Legionnaires’ disease is a pneumonia caused by bacteria in the lungs. People get sick if they inhale mist or vapor from contaminated water systems, air conditioning systems with cooling towers, hot tubs and spas.

At least 91 Legionnaires’ cases, including 12 deaths, were detected over a 17-month period in the Flint area between 2014 and 2015. Some experts have linked the outbreak to Flint’s lead-tainted water crisis after the city switched to Flint River water in 2014.

The city was under state management when it made the switch from Detroit’s water system to save money. The improperly treated river water caused lead to leach from old pipes into homes and businesses. Tests later showed high lead levels in some children.

Flint has since switched back to Detroit’s water system.

So far, 65 Legionnaires’ cases have been confirmed across the state this year.

“We knew it was only a matter of time before Genesee County would get cases,” Wells told The Associated Press. “Every case is going to be pursued thoroughly.

“We are in a position of enhanced surveillance and have been for quite some time, and certainly over the last year or so.”

Legionnaires’ disease begins with flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches and chills. More serious symptoms including a high fever, cough, breathing difficulties and chest pain can develop in some people in as little as one to two days.

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