Plan Advanced by State to Monitor Skin Conditions in Flint

Contact: See contact information below.

February 3, 2016

Flint, Mich. – Health officials in Michigan are moving forward on the investigation of rashes possibly associated with Flint water.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is developing a plan to better understand rashes that are being reported by members of the public. In recent weeks, MDHHS and the United Way 211 Information Line have received some calls with questions or concerns about rashes possibly associated with Flint water. While rashes are very common in the general population and there are numerous known causes, an important public health function involves being able to identify and rapidly respond to new causes of illness as they emerge.

MDHHS has been actively monitoring trends in rash illnesses to emergency departments in Genesee County and has not seen evidence of increases compared with prior years. However, in an effort to proactively respond to reported rashes, MDHHS is developing a plan to conduct structured interviews with members of the public who report current rashes that may be related to exposure to Flint water in their homes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC/ATSDR), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are providing technical assistance to MDHHS in this effort.

“Flint residents are understandably worried about the effects of skin exposure to water in their homes, and it’s absolutely necessary we follow up directly on their concerns,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive with the MDHHS. “While the science currently tells us children and adults can bathe in the water, we are committed to identifying any potential health risks so we can provide information to and protect families in Flint.”

MDHHS will begin asking health care providers to report cases of current rash possibly associated with Flint water exposure. These individuals will be contacted and interviewed by MDHHS personnel, and investigations will also involve testing home water samples of those with active rashes. This testing will be different from other routine water sampling and testing being conducted by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality or the EPA throughout Flint as it will focus on testing for concentrations of metals and other water quality factors that may be associated with the reported rashes.

While finalizing plans and materials for this investigation, MDHHS is already actively responding to these rash reports. Last week, Flint residents who recently reported rashes were interviewed at their homes by a team from MDHHS and water samples were collected for analysis. While it is too early in the investigation to draw any conclusions about how many people might be experiencing rashes or what might be causing them, MDHHS is responding with urgency to these reported health complaints with assistance from federal partners.

Members of the public who have concerns about rashes are encouraged to visit their primary care physician. Information reported by health care providers is an important part of creating a better understanding of the characteristics of these rashes. Individuals with questions may also call United Way 211 to be connected with health information specialists to answer their specific concerns.

For additional information related to the response in Flint, visit www.michigan.gov/flintwater.

NOTE: ALL MEDIA INQUIRIES ARE BEING HANDLED BY THE JOINT INFORMATION CENTER AT 888-EMD-TODAY (888-363-8632). FOR FLINT WATER EMERGENCY DONATION INFORMATION, GO TO www.helpforflint.com