Amid an unfolding water crisis in Flint, Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder announced the number of cases of Legionnaires’ disease has spiked in Genessee County in the two years since Flint switched its water supply from the Great Lakes to Flint River, CNN reported Wednesday. From June 2014 to November 2015, at least 87 county residents developed the disease, resulting in 10 deaths.
However, the uptick in cases cannot be directly attributed to the switch in Flint’s water source because not all the people who developed Legionnaires’ were exposed to Flint water, according to Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Legionnaires disease is a a respiratory bacterial infection that is typically spread through a mist that comes from a water source.
Snyder activated the National Guard late Tuesday to help deal with the ongoing water crisis and members of the guard began arriving in Flint Wednesday. The guardsmen are expected to help distribute bottled water, filters, replacement cartridges and home water testing kits. About 30 guardsmen are expected to be in place by Friday.
Earlier this month, Snyder had declared a state of emergency for Genessee County after it was determined that Flint’s tap water had become contaminated with too much lead after the city switched its water supply in 2014 in order to save money, the Associated Press reported. Flint, which is an economically depressed city of roughly 100,000 people, had previously bought its water from Lake Huron through the city of Detroit, but switched to Flint River two years ago. It was discovered that the water contained high levels of iron from Flint River and lead from connecting pipes. Children who have been exposed to lead could potentially develop behavioral problems and learning disabilities.
"I'm glad the state is putting in resources and we welcome the Michigan National Guard with open arms," Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement, the Associated Press reported. "However, we also need federal assistance as we continue to cope with this man-made water disaster."
The U.S. attorney’s office in Eastern Michigan is investigating the water crisis, and a class-action lawsuit has been filed against Snyder, the state government and the city of Flint.