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Wisconsin, CDC Investigating Bacterial Blood Infection Outbreak

Wisconsin, CDC Investigating Bacterial Blood Infection Outbreak Homeland Security TodayAfter 18 deaths were reported in Wisconsin, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Wisconsin health officials began investigating a serious outbreak of a rare blood infection caused by Elizabethkingia, a type of bacteria which is extremely difficult to treat with antibiotics.

“As soon as we were notified of the potential outbreak, Wisconsin’s disease detectives began working immediately to identify the source,” said State Health Officer Karen McKeown.

While 18 patients who tested positive for the Elizabethkingia infection in this outbreak have died, it has not been determined if the cause is the bacterial infection, or the patients’ other serious health conditions, or both. 

 

Symptoms of the illness can include fever, shortness of breath, chills or cellulitis. Confirmation of the illness requires a laboratory test.

 

The majority of patients acquiring this infection are over the age of 65 and all patients have a history of at least one underlying serious illness, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health (DPH).

There have been 44 cases of Elizabethkingia anophelis infections reported to DPH since November. However, the investigation is ongoing, and the Department plans to continue to update case counts on its website every Wednesday.

“Case counts may change as additional illnesses are identified and more cases are laboratory confirmed,” DPH said in a statement.

American bacteriologist Elizabeth O. King discovered Elizabethkingia in 1959 when she was studying unclassified bacteria associated with pediatric meningitis at the CDC. The bacteria is a species of gram-negative, obligate aerobic, making it resistant to many antibiotics. Consequently, the CDC indicates early detection is critical.

After the first potential cases were identified, DPH alerted health care providers, infection preventionists, and laboratories statewide of the presence of the bacteria, and provided information on how to identify and treat the infection.

The outbreak has prompted the CDC to send five “disease detectives” to southern Wisconsin to assist in the investigation. DPH is also working closely with state and local partners, including the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene and clinicians in Wisconsin. Wisconsin health officials are committed to determining the source of the bacteria and working to control the outbreak.

“Determining the source of the bacteria affecting patients in Wisconsin is a complex process,” McKeown said. “While we recognize there will be many questions we cannot yet answer, we feel it is important to share the limited information we have about the presence of the bacteria, as we continue our work to determine the source.”

 

 

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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