Doctor says Michigan Chief Medical Officer Tried to Conceal Data Linking Flint Water to Legionnaires’ Outbreak

From [HERE] Michigan Chief Medical Officer Eden Wells was trying to conceal information related to the connection between Flint’s lead contaminated water and a 2014-15 Legionnaires’ outbreak, a Wayne State University professor contends in an email exchange this year with Wells.

Wayne State professor of medicine Marcus Zervos accused Wells of trying to “suppress our findings of the serious deficiencies in the investigations and mitigation efforts” of the state and Flint area health departments related to the Legionnaires’ outbreak, according to early March emails The Detroit News obtained from the state in an open records request.

Zervos was referring to a Wayne State-led investigation in which he was participating that was studying whether Flint’s switch to Flint River water in April 2014 was responsible for a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that killed 12 and sickened 79 others in the Flint area in 2014-15. The state of Michigan contracted with the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership in March 2016 for the $3.1 million study. [Legionnaires' disease is a form of atypical pneumonia caused by any type of Legionella bacteria. Signs and symptoms include cough shortness of breath, high fever, muscle pains, and headaches. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur.[1] This often begins two to ten days after being exposed]

The legal team of Attorney General Bill Schuette has charged Wells with lying to a special police agent and with obstruction of justice, a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. A court document shows Schuette’s team hopes to prove its case with planned testimony from Zervos, who is also division head of infectious diseases at Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System.

Schuette’s team alleged that Wells obstructed justice by “threatening to withhold funding for the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership if the partnership did not cease its investigation into the source of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint.”

The emails provide insight about the prosecution’s case against Wells, who became the state’s part-time chief medical officer on May 1, 2015. She became a full-time official on Feb. 1, 2016, about four months after lead contamination in Flint’s water was publicly acknowledged and less than a month after Gov. Rick Snyder declared Flint to be a state emergency.

Wells’ attorney Jerold Lax said Friday he can’t comment on Zervos’ allegations.

“She vigorously denies all charges against her,” Lax said. “I can’t and won’t really comment on any specific items of evidence at this point.”

Zervos did not return phone calls or an email on Friday. The Henry Ford Health doctor will testify that he emailed Wells about “her efforts to intimidate and obstruct the investigation,” according to a charging document from Schuette’s office.

On Wednesday, the attorney general also charged Wells’ boss, Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office, punishable by up to 20 years in prison combined. Lyon attorney Charles Chamberlain has vowed to fight the charges and does not foresee a plea deal.