Contributed by Carol Huang
The rarely seen bloodstream infection bacteria, Elizabethkingiam, has sickened 54 in Wisconsin since November, 2015. Seventeen of those patients are dead, although direct causes of their deaths remain unclear. It was recently confirmed to have claimed a life in Michigan. This brings the total death toll of the illness to 18 since the outbreak first occurred in November 2015
Elizabethkingia anopheles is named after the microbiologist who first identified and isolated it in the 1950s. Although found in the guts of mosquitoes, it is not a dangerous bacteria for anyone with a healthy immune system. It is commonly existed in the environment, including in water and soil, it rarely causes infections, and the risk is very low in young or healthy people but can cause life-threatening infections in young babies, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions like compromised immune system, cancer, liver disease or kidney disease.
Symptoms of the blood infection include shortness of breath, fever, chills and cellulitis. It is proven to be extremely tricky to treat as it is resistant to a lot of antibiotics.
Most previous outbreaks have occurred in a specific place, such as a hospital. Since the outbreak began in November, 54 people in 12 southeastern Wisconsin counties have been sickened. It is not associated with any particular location or facility. More perplexing is that health officials confirmed that a Michigan resident died after contracting a bloodstream infection that matches the one detected in Wisconsin. These patients are in different places around southeastern Wisconsin and Michigan. Many aren’t even mobile because they are homebound or in a nursing home. They’re on different water systems, some have their own private wells. There’s no commonality for some particular environmental exposure that people had. The source remains mystery.
Health official cautions that people ought to practice good infection control and good hygiene practices.