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Mysterious Blood Infection Elizabethkingia Spreading in Wisconsin, Michigan

Mon March 28 2016 10:55 pm
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A bacteria called Elizabethkingia has been spreading across the Midwestern United States, where it has caused at least 17 deaths. The most at risk groups are infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. CBS News medical contributor Dr. Holly Phillips has details for CBSN.

An outbreak of Elizabethkingia anophelis bloodstream infections in Wisconsin is believed to have caused the deaths of at least 18 people. The outbreak began in Wisconsin in November 2015 with 48 people with confirmed infections in 12 Wisconsin counties and at least 18 deaths by March 9, 2016.

Elizabethkingia anophelis is a bacterium isolated in 2011 from the midgut of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes originating from MacCarthy Island, Islamic Republic of The Gambia in northwest Africa (declared an Islamic state in December 2015). The genus Elizabethkingia is named after the former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) microbiologist Elizabeth O. King. Previous outbreaks of Elizabethkingia anophelis have been associated with health care settings.

As of March 2016 the Elizabethkingia outbreak was reported to be the largest outbreak of Elizabethkingia anophelis-caused disease investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of patients infected are over the age of 65 and all patients have a history of at least one underlying illness. People with compromised immune systems or serious underlying health conditions are more at risk of serious consequences of an Elizabethkingia infection.

The Elizabethkingia bacteria are commonly found in soil, river water and reservoirs but do not commonly cause illness in humans. Once a human is infected the illness causes fever, shortness of breath, chills and cellulitis.

One older adult in Michigan with underlying health conditions died as a result of the Elizabethkingia infection, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported Thursday, March 17th.

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