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Expert in Flint case: Man didn’t die from Legionnaires’

March 23, 2018 GMT

Flint — An infectious disease expert said Friday that a Flint-area man died from acute respiratory distress syndrome but not Legionnaires’ disease, challenging a special prosecutor’s charge that the state’s health chief contributed to the man’s death.

Dr. Jeffrey Band, an infectious disease doctor at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, testified that 85-year-old Robert Skidmore contracted Legionnaires’ disease in 2015, but it was “treated promptly and appropriately.” The Genesee Township resident “responded to very, very rapidly to therapy almost back to baseline,” Band said.

He was testifying for the defense legal team of Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, who faces involuntary manslaughter and other charges in the deaths of two Flint-area people during a 2014-2015 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that killed 12 people and sickened another 79.

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Special Prosecutor Todd Flood has rested his case before 67th District Court Judge David Goggins, who will decide whether the charges will proceed to trial. Legal experts have said that unless the defense can poke a big hole in Flood’s case, Lyon is likely to go on trial because there is a lower threshold of evidence needed to advance the case.

The son of Skidmore said his elderly father “was active” before falling sick in 2015 and dying from what some medical experts later determined was Legionnaires’ disease. The elder Skidmore couldn’t live independently and wouldn’t eat after being diagnosed with Legionnaires’, the son said.

In February testimony, Detroit area cardiologist Joel Kahn said Legionnaires’ disease helped accelerate Skidmore’s demise in December 2015 and “triggered” his death.

Kahn, a clinical professor of medicine at Wayne State University in Detroit, also said John Snyder, 83, of Flint died of a “Legionella” pathogen and pneumonia.

But Band said although Snyder tested positive for Legionella, patients such as Snyder with rheumatoid arthritis can sometime produce “false positive” test results for Legionnaires’ disease.

lfleming@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @leonardnfleming