Initial Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding Legionella bacteria in present-day Flint

We have been getting questions from concerned parents about the Legionella announcement made earlier today and if there is a risk to taking showers.

1. Is it safe for me and my kids to shower in the water now?

A. We agree with DHHS that this problem, is probably behind us all, even it if was caused by the Flint River water. It is safe to shower now whether you are an adult or a child. When we say “safe,” we mean it is no riskier to shower in Flint now than in any other U.S. city.

2. Is this (was this) a risk only in high-rise buildings or plumbing systems in small homes can harbor Legionella pneumophila too?

A. During August of 2015 we focused our Legionella testing on residences and smaller buildings like McDonald’s throughout the city. Despite looking as hard as we could, we could find no trace of the Legionella bacterial strain that causes disease. So in homes and small buildings at least, based on our data, the risk of exposure was relatively low. We published those data on our website earlier in the year, and frankly, we were a little surprised there was not more Legionella.

However, just before the switch back to Detroit, we sampled larger buildings, and we found very high levels of the types of Legionella that cause disease. So we tend to feel, that the risk of exposure, was much higher in the bigger buildings.

3. The water has been “bleachy” in the last few days. Is that a risk?

A. This is actually a good sign that your risk of Legionella very low. The “bleach” or chlorine actually kills Legionella bateria.

Acknowledgements: Dr. Amy Pruden, Dr. Marc Edwards, Siddhartha Roy

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