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Daily Archives: April 27, 2019
Published on Apr 25, 2019
During the Flint water crisis, 26-year-old Jassmine McBride was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. She survived the outbreak, but years later, her story reveals the long tail of Flint’s tainted water.
FRONTLINE has discovered that total number of deaths related to Legionnaires’ disease in Flint may be much higher than the figure cited by Michigan officials. Our documentary on Flint’s water crisis will premiere on PBS in fall 2019.
| FRONTLINE | PBS
Jassmine McBride was struggling to breathe.
But as she sat in her doctor’s office near Flint, Michigan last July, tethered to an oxygen tank, McBride just wanted to tell everyone about her upcoming 30th birthday party.
She rattled off the details: her uncle would fire up the barbecue, and kids would play games. There would be music and dancing. And everyone was invited — even her doctors. “Bring your grandchildren if you have them,” she said. “Just let them have fun, get some food and have a water balloon fight.”
For McBride, this birthday wasn’t just a milestone. It was a celebration of survival. She was one of 90 people in the Flint area that the state said were sickened during a 2014-15 outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, a sometimes fatal form of pneumonia caused by waterborne bacteria. The source of the outbreak hasn’t been definitively proven, but numerous scientists have linked it to improperly treated water the city pulled from the Flint River and used as its drinking water supply.
Six months after that momentous birthday, McBride was back in the emergency room, again short of breath. She went into cardiac arrest and lost consciousness. Eight days later, on Feb. 12, 2019, Jassmine McBride died.
While neither Flint’s drinking water crisis nor Legionnaires’ disease is named on McBride’s death certificate, her physician, friends and family say it is impossible to ignore the links between her declining health and the city’s fateful switch to the Flint River, which happened five years ago today: April 25, 2014.
Dr. Marcus Zervos, an infectious disease specialist at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital who treated McBride in the final months of her life said, “The immediate cause of death was cardiac arrest, but she suffered from complications of Legionnaires’ disease from 2014, which were kidney failure, heart failure, respiratory failure.”
“She was the story of Flint,” he added.
This story is part of Degrees Of Change, a series that explores the problem of climate change and how we as a planet are adapting to it. Tell us how you or your community are responding to climate change here and help us make our climate change coverage more relevant by completing this short survey.