Health officials in Jackson County asking residents to be vigilant of increase in cases of Legionnaires Disease

JACKSON COUNTY, MI (WLNS) – The last time you heard about Legionnaires Disease was likely connected to the Flint water crisis, but Monday, Jackson County health officials announced there are now eight confirmed cases of the disease in the county since September 2016.

Jackson County Health Officer, Richard Thoune, said that’s a dramatic increase in the number of cases reported in the same time period over the past five years.

“On average we have ranged from 0-4 cases in the same time frame and to have eight at this point in time through the end of September in 2016 is just unusual,” Thoune said.

So far, there haven’t been any deaths related to these cases and health officials said there aren’t any associations between them. However, it is hitting a certain age group.

“They’ve occurred in more of the elderly group in our community between the ages of 51 and 76,” Thoune said. “People at that age group are more at risk for contracting Legionnaires’ disease.”

Legionnaires ‘ disease is caused by bacteria that’s found naturally in fresh water lakes and streams and can become a health hazard in warm or stagnate water.

It can lead to pneumonia and is characterized by symptoms such as fever, body aches, and shortness of breath.

Thoune said while officials are working to find out why there’s an uptick, with heightened concerns over the Flint water crisis, residents in Jackson should know, this isn’t a similar situation.

“There’s no evidence that the water supply here in the city of Jackson or elsewhere in the county is the source of it,” Thoune said. “Our water supply is safe. We meet all of the federal standards for copper and lead as well as for bacteria.”

Health officials said the best thing for people to do, is be aware of the common sources of the disease.

For example, if you have a whirlpool or hot tub, make sure you’re properly maintaining them.

“It’s just a matter of heightening our awareness that this is currently what we’re seeing in the community and asking people to be vigilant and aware,” Thoune said.

County health officials said they will continue to work with the state and local health department as well as the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to look closely at any new cases.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, you’re encouraged to contact the Jackson County Health Department at (517) 768-1662, or click here for more information from the CDC.

6 News will update you on any new developments on this story.

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