Our law firm is investigating this Elizabethkingia outbreak in Wisconsin.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has announced that a new cluster of Elizabethkingia anophelis has sickened at least 10 Illinois residents, killing 6. Concerned by the widespread, continuing outbreak of a different strain of Elizabethkingia that has infected 59 individuals in Wisconsin since November (18 of whom have died), the Centers for Disease Control has issued a nationwide request that state health departments and healthcare providers keep a careful watch for new cases.
Dr. Chris Braden, deputy director at the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, explains that, following their call for diligence in reporting, “Illinois really looked for it” (1). State health officials have also determined that at least one Illinois resident died earlier this year of the same strain of EK that is making people ill in Wisconsin and which killed one Michigan resident last month.
Neither Wisconsin nor Illinois officials have yet been able to confirm a source for the outbreaks in their respective states. Thus, Illinois has begun to compile data on a case-by-case basis to in order to track patterns in residency, determine whether the bacteria caused bloodstream or respiratory infections in its victims, and ascertain if any of those affected were patients at the same health care facility.
Although previous outbreaks of Elizabethkingia have typically been associated with health care facilities (nosocomial transmission), the difficulty that the CDC has had in identifying a common source may suggest that the dangerous disease may be being transmitted via a contaminated product:
“Because the strains are different officials are operating under the assumption the Illinois and Wisconsin cases are unrelated. However, there is a possibility that the investigation could find they are related – for example, exposure to the same product … Braden said, ‘We haven’t really been looking for clusters with this particular organism: it’s possible we could see others as states request laboratories look for these and request them.'” (1)
EK does not strikes healthy adults. Rather, Elizabethkingia anophelis typically infects people who are over 65 and who have underlying health conditions / compromised immune systems; a different type of the disease, Elizabethkingia meningoseptica, is hospital-transmitted and causes life-threatening meningitis in newborns as well as in adult patients in critical care environments. Thus, it is not always possible to tell whether EK is the primary source of death or a contributing factor in those who succumb to the anophelis strain of the disease. In adults, this strain typically presents as bloodstream or respiratory infections; symptoms include fever, chills, shortness of breath, swelling, and cellulitis (a potentially serious skin infection).
- Press Release. “Elizabaethkingia in Illinois.” Illinois Department of Public Health. Web. 25 Apr. 2016 (date cited).