Family seriously ill with mystery sickness after reunion trip

Family seriously ill with mystery sickness after reunion trip

POSTED: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 1:15pm

UPDATED: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 1:19pm

We're following developing news on a reported illness that has sent several local people to a hospital after being together for an up north for a family reunion.

WNEM TV5 has learned a group of about 27 people traveled to a lodge at Boyne City, in Charlevoix County last week, and since returning home from the trip, five of them have become seriously ill.

"I got a phone call from another family member [who] said, 'you need to get up here, and you need to get up here now, she's not doing well at all and you need to plan that there's a chance she could pass away," said Albert Marr.

Family members told TV5 at least three of those people were flown from St. Mary's hospital in Saginaw to the University of Michigan Medical Center Wednesday night. A spokesperson at the Ann Arbor hospital told TV5 that two people are currently in serious condition.

Contrary to what the hospital said, when TV5 spoke with family members, they say two of the five people are in critical condition, suffering from what doctors are describing as respiratory problems. Family members tell TV5 the sickness resembles pneumonia. "Tests are coming back inconclusive, but they [doctors] are telling us they are suspecting Legionnaire's disease," said a family member to TV5 reporter Brian Wood. That is contrary to two tests done at St. Mary's, which came back negative for the disease.

Two family members remain at St. Mary's in stable conditions. One person could be released on Friday.

Family members tell TV5 they are worried that since the incubation period could be as long as 14 days, other family members could soon begin showing symptoms and become sick. That worry is playing out as around 3 p.m. Thursday, another family member is beginning to come down with symptoms of the mysterious illness.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Legionnaire's disease is described as:

A severe form of pneumonia — lung inflammation usually caused by infection. Legionnaires' disease is caused by a bacterium known as legionella.

You can't catch Legionnaires' disease from person-to-person contact. Instead, most people get Legionnaires' disease from inhaling the bacteria. Older adults, smokers and people with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to Legionnaires' disease.

Legionella bacterium also causes Pontiac fever, a milder illness resembling the flu. Separately or together, the two illnesses are sometimes called legionellosis. Pontiac fever usually clears on its own. But untreated Legionnaires' disease can be fatal. Although prompt treatment with antibiotics usually cures Legionnaires' disease, some people continue to experience problems after treatment.

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