Urgent Message about the Elizabethkingia Outbreak in Wisconsin
Our law firm is investigating an outbreak of bloodstream infections in Wisconsin and Michigan caused by Elizabethkingia anophelis bacteria. To date (updated April 14, 2016), there are 59 confirmed cases in Wisconsin and one each in Michigan and Illinois. There are 20 reported deaths.
It is critically important that people over 65 and their families watch for symptoms of an Elizabethkingia infection: shortness of breath, fever, chills and cellulitis (a potentially serious skin infection).
Contact attorney our law firm if you or a loved one has been sickened or if you have any information that may be helpful to our investigation.
Elizabethkingia Outbreak Investigation
Note: This information was updated to reflect the new case count.
Between November 1, 2015 and April 13, 2016 there have been 59 cases of Elizabethkingia anophelis infections reported to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), Division of Public Health (DPH). Affected counties include Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Jefferson, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan, Washington, Waukesha and Winnebago.
Health officials have not determined if the infections directly caused these tragic deaths. Most of the people sickened in this outbreak are over the age of 65, and all are patients with a history of at least one underlying serious illness.
At this time, the source of these infections is unknown and DHS is working to contain this outbreak.
“The Department has alerted health care providers, infection preventionists and laboratories statewide and provided information as well as treatment guidance for this outbreak. After that initial guidance was sent, there has been a rapid identification of cases and healthcare providers have been able to treat and improve outcomes for patients” (DHS).
What is Elizabethkingia and How is an Infection Treated?
Elizabethkingia are bacteria that can cause a blood infection and life-threatening illness, particularly among immune-compromised people or patients with underlying medical conditions (e.g., HIV, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease). The mortality rate is high, 41 percent in one study (Lin). However, early detection and treatment with an effective antibiotic regimen increase the survival rate (DHS).
The correct antibiotic treatment is essential to survival, and DHS has done antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) at clinical microbiology laboratories in Wisconsin of at least 6 isolates of Elizabethkingia obtained from people sickened in the outbreak. DHS has sent information to doctors and other healthcare professionals based on the AST testing:
“Most of the isolates tested are susceptible to trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, flouroquinolones, and piperacillin/tazobactam. The medical literature suggests combination treatment with these agents may be more effective than monotherapy,and the addition of vancomycin may be beneficial in some cases. Whenever possible, treatment should be guided with AST.”
DHS is warning doctors and healthcare facilities: “The index of suspicion for Elizabethkingia infections should be high among patients with multiple co-morbid conditions, particularly malignancy, diabetes mellitus, chronic renal disease or end-stage renal disease on dialysis, alcohol dependence, alcoholic cirrhosis, immune compromising conditions or immunosuppressive treatment.” If a case is suspected, DHS is requesting healthcare facilities to do the following:
- Immediately report the identification of any isolation of Elizabethkingia from any sterile site specimen (blood, cerebral spinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid or other sterile site) to the DPH by calling Lina Elbadawi MD at 608-266-0392 or Gwen Borlaug at 608-267-7711.
- Fax requested medical records (including face sheet) to 608-266-0049.
- Submit all Elizabethkingia isolates (or F. meningosepticum or C. meningosepticum) expeditiously to the WSLH for confirmatory testing via the facility clinical microbiology laboratory.
Get Legal Help
Our law firm is one of the very few in the nation that has represented hundreds of people sickened in outbreaks of infection and families whose loved ones did not survive (wrongful death). You can contact our law firm for a free consultation (click here) and talk with an Elizabethkingia lawyer on our Bad Bug Law Team. Attorney Fred Pritzker is the founding partner of the firm, and he would like to talk with families about infection cases. He has substantial experience in this area and has won many multimillion-dollar cases for clients with personal injury and wrongful death claims involving product liability and medical malpractice.
- Wisconsin Department of Health. https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/disease/elizabethkingia.htm.
Lin, Yi-Tsung, et al. “Clinical and microbiological analysis of Elizabethkingia meningoseptica bacteremia in adult patients in Taiwan.” Scandinavian journal of infectious diseases 41.9 (2009): 628-634.