An outbreak of infections caused by a bacterium called Elizabethkingia (Eleeza-beeth-kin-gea) anophelis (a-na-fa-leez), first reported in Wisconsin, has now spread to Illinois and Michigan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says at this time, there have been 20 confirmed deaths in three states and 59 confirmed cases. Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist Dr. Pritish Tosh says, "This is a bacteria we find in the soil and in the environment. It's not incredibly unique. However, it is unusual to see it causing infections in humans."
Dr. Tosh adds, "This is an infection that is affecting people who are very sick, with severe medical comorbidities, and who are older. We are seeing it in Wisconsin and some surrounding states — Michigan and Illinois." He says, "For the most part, it's been a blood stream infection — that means the bacteria is getting into the blood and causing infection." Some patients have had the infection get into their lungs causing pneumonia, and others areas of the skin, resulting in cellulitis.
Dr. Tosh says public health officials are working hard to identify the source and figure out how to stop it. He says most bacteria infections are not easily transferred person-to-person.
Confirmation of the illness requires a laboratory test.
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