State pushes back against studies indicating switch to Flint river linked to uptick in legionnaires

Feb 6, 2018

The state health department pushed back Tuesday against two studies which indicated the switch to Flint River water is linked to 80 percent of the legionnaires cases in the city.

The health department described the research as quote “incomplete” and “inaccurate.”

Angela Minicucci is with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. She said there were problems with how researchers built their timeline of the disease.

“We recommended they look at onset date of symptoms because that gives you an accurate window regarding their exposure. Instead, they used a referral date, which just gives the point in time they came into contact with the healthcare community.”

Minicucci said the state raised concerns about how the studies were being conducted early on.

“We did previously, months ago, review early drafts of the journal and we did express concern.”

Shawn McElmurry is an author on the studies. He said researchers did everything they could with the data available to them.

“It was no mistake that we sent it to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences because it is the absolute top peered journal for this work. We wanted the rigorous scientific review process possible and I believe that speaks for itself.”

McElmurry said the state’s critiques were not useful to the research.

“Unfortunately we did not receive any scientifically defensible critiques back that would help us improve our analysis.”

Among the findings, McElmurry said they found Flint residents were seven times more likely to catch legionnaires disease during the period the city used water from the Flint River.