By: Elizabeth Klein
Though Flint hasn’t been in the news as explosively as it was during the beginning of its plight, the problems in the central Michigan city haven’t gone away. Rather, they’ve increased. Flint is struggling to manage its second calamity in a year. In addition to the devastating contaminated water problem, the city must now deal with an outbreak of Shigellosis. The infectious disease is caused by the bacteria Shigella, and causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. It spreads through contact with the bacteria in the water and thrives when people don’t wash their hands. Since Most Flint residents have drastically adapted their bathing habits out of fear of the tainted water and its harmful effects the bacteria has found a place to thrive. Because of this, cases of Shigellosis in the county have reached an astounding number of eighty-five.
Many Flint residents currently use baby wipes instead of water to maintain hygiene. However, these wipes are unchlorinated and do not do kill bacteria. Many people are afraid that by using hot water through their filters, the lives of the filters will decrease. The Genesee County Health Department says that the hot water is safe, even when unfiltered. However, many people are not convinced.
In 2014 and 2015, Michigan claimed that unfiltered water in Flint was safe. However, many residents claimed that despite this, they developed rashes when they came into contact with the water.
“They’ll tell you ‘you can use it,’ then they’ll tell you ‘don’t use it,’ then they come on the news again, ‘use it,’” Flint resident Voil String told CNN in an interview. “You don’t know what to do with it…I ain’t using it.”
Some Flint citizens claim that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has not done enough to cooperate with the county’s health department. Jim Henry, the environmental health supervisor for Genesee County, says that the MHDHHS “refused to communicate with us.” He told CNN that he had a hard time receiving help from the department.
“For weeks the state MDHHS stopped communicating and assisting regarding all disease investigations,” Henry adds. “This action directly compromised the safety and health of our communities.”
The Genesee County Health Department wrote in a recent report that the MHDHHS is continuing to help and support the county. They claim that the MHDHHS has been “working with the GCHD staff on their development of a handwashing campaign.”
“MHDHHS continues to work with federal, state, and local partners,” the department stated. “[They have] also issued a Health Alert Network to reinforce the public health messaging with the healthcare community.”