March 7, 2016GeneralNo commentsdaniel
A rare blood infection has killed 18 people across Wisconsin — and officials have no idea where it’s coming from.
Federal and state investigators are working to pinpoint the source of the outbreak of Elizabethkingia, a bacterial bloodstream infection.
State health officers suggested it may travel from person-to-person contact, but investigators are looking at environmental sources, such as water and soil, too.
Since November, 44 people in southern and southeastern Wisconsin have tested positive for the infection, officials said. Most states see between five and 10 cases a year.
In Wisconsin, all of the sickened have serious underlying health conditions, state health officer Karen McKeown said. The majority of those sickened are over age 65 and none are children, she said.
At this point, the source of the infection remains elusive.
“We are keeping every possibility on the table,” McKeown said. “But, it does not seem to be from person to person” contact.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials are interviewing the 26 survivors and the families of the 18 deceased patients.
“Even as they’re grieving, they are providing information to help,” she said.
The rare infection is caused by the bacteria Elizabethkingia, a common organism found in in the environment, including water and soil. The bacteria rarely causes infections, but when it does, symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, chills or skin rash, health officials said.
Illnesses associated with Elizabethkingia typically affect people with compromised immune systems or serious underlying health conditions.
The bacteria is named after Elizabeth King, the bacteriologist who discovered it in 1959.
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