Flint, MI—Hurley Medical Center has recently diagnosed a patient, who was admitted to the hospital on July 12, 2022, with Legionella pneumonia, also known as Legionnaires’ disease.

While Hurley is working with the Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to identify potential sources of the patient’s infection, Philip McDonald, an infectious disease physician at Hurley, said cases of Legionnaires’ acquired from a healthcare facility are rare. 

“As with most cases of Legionella, the case that we have identified is most likely acquired from the community,” McDonald said at a July 28 news conference. He added that Hurley follows a “robust” water safety plan, and recent testing results for Legionella bacteria in the hospital have yielded negative results. 

Philip McDonald, an infectious disease physician at Hurley Medical Center (HMC), speaks to reporters on July 28, 2022 at HMC, about legionnaires’ disease and the recent case of the disease that was diagnosed at the hospital. (Nicholas Chan | Flint Beat)

Nonetheless, the investigation is ongoing, and as a precautionary measure, GCHD advises anyone who has been a patient or visited Hurley since July 12 to monitor for symptoms for 14 days after their visit; individuals with symptoms should contact their primary care provider for evaluation. Patients with Legionnaires’ typically experience symptoms of pneumonia, including fever, cough, chills, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, McDonald said. 

GCHD stated that an average of 26 cases of Legionnaires’ among Genesee County residents were reported between 2017 and 2021. Cases have generally been rising in the last decade, and the disease is more common in the summer and fall. Legionnaires’ cases spiked amid the Flint water crisis, which unfolded after the city switched its water supply to the Flint River in 2014.

Legionella, which can be found in freshwater environments, can pose a health risk as the bacteria proliferate in human-made water systems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Water systems and devices that aerolize water, including showerheads, cooling towers, whirlpool spas and decorative foundations are common sources for the spread of Legionnaires’, GCHD noted. Most people who are healthy do not develop Legionnaires’, or they may experience pontiac fever, a milder form of the illness.

Nicholas Chan

Nicholas is Flint Beat’s public health and education reporter. He joins the team as he graduates from Santa Clara University, Calif. Nicholas has previously reported on dementia and brain health, as...