The death toll in Flint, Michigan, from contaminated water may be much higher than state health officials have acknowledged, an ongoing FRONTLINE investigation has found. The likely killer: Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia caused by the legionella bacteria.
Officially, 90 people were sickened and 12 died from exposure to waterborne legionella bacteria during the 18 months that the city of Flint drew its water from the Flint River in 2014 and 2015. But FRONTLINE’s investigation has found 119 deaths from pneumonia during that time, some of which scientists say could actually have been caused by legionella. The tally is based on an extensive review of death records and interviews with epidemiologists and other scientists who are experts in the field of infectious diseases.
If the death toll is higher, as the records and interviews suggest, a 15-month delay by state officials in notifying the community about the legionella outbreak may have cost even more lives than the deaths state prosecutors have cited in an ongoing criminal case. More than a dozen state and city officials, including from the Michigan state departments of health, and environmental quality, are facing criminal charges associated with failing to alert the public […]