March 7, 2016
Dozens Ill In Wisconsin After Elizabethkingia Bacteria Outbreak
Health officials are testing water, skin care products and over-the-counter medications, and interviewing patients and families, to try to identify the source of an outbreak of a bacteria that has sickened 44 people in southern Wisconsin and may have contributed to 18 deaths.
Lab tests suggest a common source of the bacteria, called Elizabethkingia. But the investigation, which started in January, has not revealed the source, health officials said.
Most of the patients are elderly, with serious underlying health conditions.
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No cases linked to the Wisconsin outbreak have been reported in other states, McKeown and Braden said.
Nationwide, about 250 to 500 cases are known to occur each year, with a few localized outbreaks in recent years, said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner. The Wisconsin outbreak is the largest, he said.
Though 18 people have died, it’s not clear if their deaths were caused by the bacterial infection or their underlying health conditions, McKeown said. The conditions include cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and alcoholic cirrhosis.
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Elizabethkingia bacteria rarely cause illness in humans, the state health department said. Symptoms can include fever, shortness of breath, chills or cellulitis, a skin infection.
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The 44 patients are on different water systems, with some using wells, so the source doesn’t appear to be a water distribution system, Braden said.
Officials test water, skin care products in mysterious Wisconsin bacteria outbreak
DAVID WAHLBERG dwahlberg (at) madison.com, 608-252-6125
March 3, 2016