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Another disease outbreak strikes Flint region

Oct 4, 2016

An outbreak of a gastrointestinal illness  is easing in Genesee and Saginaw Counties.

Many of the dozens of cases of Shigella occurred in Flint, but peaked weeks ago.

Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain.  More than a dozen people have been hospitalized, but there have been no fatalities.  

Dr. Eden Wells is the state’s chief medical executive. She says it’s not clear if people’s reluctance to use Flint water for basic hygiene is a factor.

“Hand hygiene is the most important way…to help control an outbreak,” says Wells.

Suzanne Cupal is with the Genesee County Health Department.  She notes since the Flint water crisis, many people rely on hand sanitizers and baby wipes to clean their hands.

“Using those products are a great stop gap measure,” says Cupal, “but washing your hands with soap and water is more important.”

Wells says the state’s response to the outbreak was briefly affected in August by a judge’s order blocking communication between the state health department and local health officials.

The judge’s order was requested by prosecutors investigating the Flint water crisis.    

Prosecutors say a Legionnaires Disease outbreak in 2014 and 2015 is linked to the water crisis. Scores were sickened and more than a dozen people died.