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Residents of Flint, Michigan are too scared of the water to wash, causing Shigellosis outbreak

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 6:49
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Desdemona Despair

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, right, drinks filtered Flint, Michigan, tap water with Flint resident Cheryl Hill while listening to her concerns with the city's ongoing water crisis at her home Monday, 18 April 2016. Photo: Jake May / The Flint

By Travis M. Andrews
4 October 2016

(Washington Post) – Residents of Flint, Mich., are still afraid of the city’s water.

That fear, caused by the 2015 findings of elevated lead levels in the town’s water supply, had led many of the town’s residents to forego some basic hygiene, such as washing their hands or bathing with water — even though the federal government has deemed the water safe when using a water filter.

“People aren’t bathing because they’re scared,” Jim Henry, Genesee County’s environmental health supervisor, told CNN. “Some people have mentioned that they’re not going to expose their children to the water again.”

As a result, the city is facing another outbreak: This time of Shigellosis, an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Shigella. The main way to prevent the infection is by washing one’s hands, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, malaise, abdominal pain, and tenesmus — constantly feeling the need to evacuate one’s bowels, even with an empty colon.

It is, according to the CDC, “very contagious” and resistant to many “first-line drugs,” the most common antibiotics.

“It’s very easy to transmit person to person, or through food. If people aren’t washing their hands, it runs through the whole county,” Henry told CNN.

The disease is fairly common in America — about 500,000 cases appear in the country each year — but incidents in Genesee County, home to Flint, have more than tripled in the past calendar year, according to

Since Oct. 2015, 84 cases of the disease have appeared in Flint, a city that normally experiences 20 instances each year, according to CNN. […]

The water crisis that led to this outbreak began in April 2014, when the city of Flint began drawing water from the Flint River to save money. Previously, it had shared Detroit’s water supply.

A short eighteen months later, though, “researchers discovered that the proportion of children with above-average lead levels in their blood had doubled,” The Washington Post reported. [more]

Flint residents too scared of the water to wash. That’s making them sick.


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