Feds deploy health ‘strike team’ to Flint

Feds deploy health ‘strike team’ to Flint
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The Obama administration is stepping up its involvement in the worsening water crisis in Flint, Mich., with the deployment of a team of public health officers to the city this week.

A total of 16 members of the public health commissioned corps are now tasked with working with children who have suffered from lead poisoning because of the city’s drinking water.

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“The water crisis in Flint is a public health crisis and demands a public health response,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wrote in a statement on Wednesday.

The trained health officers will help lead an on-the-ground response in Flint amid an ongoing scramble between the city and the state's elected officials. Both Flint and its state leadership have faced mounting criticism for their lagging response.

The corps, which operates under the Department of Health and Human Services, has most recently been deployed during the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Officers were also key to the nation’s response to natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.

Between 6,000 and 12,000 children have been exposed to lead over the last year, according to the nonprofit group, United Way of Genesee County.

Health officials have encouraged Flint residents to be tested for exposure to lead, and city officials have given out free testing kits.

While lead poisoning can be treated, certain therapies can require hospitalization. If a child’s lead poisoning is not treated it can cause long-term effects to brain function.

The House held its first hearing on the Flint water crisis on Wednesday, during which the federal government heaped blame on Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for failing to keep water safe.  

Joel Beauvais, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official, said the state has the “primary responsibility” to enforce drinking water laws.