State health officials have asked for help from the Centers for Disease Control to investigate shigella outbreaks in Saginaw and Genesee Counties.
Shigella is a highly infectious bacteria that causes gastro-intestinal illness.
According to Dr. Eden Wells, Michigan's Chief Medical Executive, the State Epidemiologist made the request last Friday. The CDC investigative team arrived today to map the bacteria's spread, and to look into possible risk factors and causes.
Wells said that in 2016, about 80 cases of shigella have been reported in Genessee County and about 50 in Saginaw County. She said one would normally expect to see under a dozen cases.
"While the outbreaks are actually decreasing in activity - they probably peaked in the August, early September area - they will continue." Wells said.
Wells said the cause or causes of the outbreaks is not known, and a comprehensive investigation is needed-- especially because of community concerns that the outbreaks could be associated with the Flint water crisis. But she notes the outbreaks are not limited to Genesee County, where Flint is located.
According to Wells, there have been no deaths or severe complications reported. But shigella outbreaks are difficult to bring under control.
Wells said the best prevention is frequent hand-washing in warm, soapy water for 20 seconds.
Update: A Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson contacted Michigan Radio to clarify that the shigella outbreaks peaked in June, and not in August and early Septemeber as Dr. Wells previously stated.