Never miss a beat! Sign up for the Flint Beat newsletter.
[paypal_donation_button]FLINT, MI – One Flint woman says she hasn’t been able to safely go into her home since December 2016 after researchers found a rare bacterium in her water.
“I’ve been screaming about it on and off on my Facebook page since November,” said Florlisa Stebbins. “My doctors say they will never be able to completely remove this bacteria from my lung.”
The Genesee County Health Department issued a media release April 19, 2017 warning residents of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia – the rare bacteria found in one of Stebbins’ lungs.
In November she said she was recovering from bout of Pneumonia when she found herself coughing violently.
“I was standing at the sink washing dishes when I started coughing so bad that I couldn’t catch my breath,” said Stebbins, 39. “My family had to rush me to the hospital. I couldn’t breathe.”
According lab reports dated Nov. 29, 2016, doctors found Stenotrophomonas maltophilia also known as Steno in one of Stebbins’ lungs.
She blames the water.
Stebbins says researchers found Steno in her water late last year.
She lives in a culdesac on Flint’s north side near the dead end of her block next to one of two vacant homes on the street.
On Monday, April 10, 2017 city officials installed a hydrant flusher on Stebbins’ street.
According to an April 20, 2017 email from Flint’s spokeswoman Kristin Moore, officials installed the hydrant flusher to make sure the residents had good chlorine levels.
“I contacted the supervisor of the Water Service Center who says…a hydrant flusher was installed at the end of (the street) to ensure good chlorine residual,” Moore wrote. “He says at time of installation the chlorine residual was .77 ppm which is excellent and it will continue to increase with the hydrant flusher running.”
Flint City Councilman Eric Mays said he spoke with Stebbins about her issues and had talked to other city officials about the problems residents have on Stebbins’ street.
“I paid attention to her because she is in my ward,” Mays said. “I talked to her and neighbors and found out she had to go to Henry Ford hospital in Detroit and had to move out of her house. I take that seriously…I believe people aren’t just sick. I believe people have died too. I’m not naïve.”
Mays said he has talked to city officials about Stebbins’ issues. He said he believes that people throughout the city have been plagued with bacteria, rashes and respiratory issues since the city’s water crisis.
“You will be a fool to believe that people have not been affected by certain aspects of the water,” Mays said. “It’s some bacteria issues based off just the people’s system.”
This is at least the third bacterium warning since Flint stopped using Detroit for its water source and switched to the Flint River in 2014.
In 2016 health officials announced that Genesee County had an influx of Legionnaires’ disease cases that left at least 12 people dead. They also later that year warned people of another bacteria called Shigellosis, which caused bloody diarrhea and fever.
Genesee County Health Officer Mark Valacak said Steno is not a reportable bacteria and he did not have information on the number of cases and if there had been any reported deaths from Flint’s latest bacteria.
“Steno is something you typically find in hospitals,” Valacak said during an April 18, 2017 interview just a day before the Health Department released their warning. “We would have to contact hospitals to see if there were any cases in Genesee County.”
“Stenotrophomonas maltophilia is a multidrug-resistant organism that is most commonly associated with respiratory tract infections,” says the April 19 warning. “While Stenotrophomonas maltophilia is a rare cause of infection, it is becoming more common among hospitalized individuals with weakened immune systems. Stenotrophomonas maltophilia is generally not considered dangerous for healthy individuals and usually infects those who are critically ill or immunocompromised.”
As it stands, Stebbins is living with her boyfriend and said she does not allow her children to go into their home at all.
She keeps a mask in her car just in case she has to go into the home but typically only stops to pick up mail.
“Look,” Stebbins said as she held up her mask while standing in her driveway. “I need a mask to go into my house. I refuse to believe that it’s safe to go in there without it.”
For more information review the Genesee County Health Department warning below.