Elizabethkingia Outbreak Spreads Across Three States


Elizabethkingia is believed to be the cause for 18 deaths in Wisconsin, 1 death in Michigan, and now, 1 additional death in Illinois.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working closely with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to investigate a bacterial outbreak of Elizabethkingia anophelis which has reached as far as 3 states.

This previously misdiagnosed bacteria, Elizabethkingia, is believed to be the cause for 18 deaths in Wisconsin, 1 death in Michigan, and now, 1 additional death in Illinois. The CDC reports that since most of the identified infected individuals, living and deceased, also had serious underlying health conditions, it has been difficult to determine whether the deaths within the outbreak populations are due to the bacteria or the other health conditions.

Following the initial outbreak in Wisconsin, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) sent out an alert on February 10, 2016 to all hospitals in the state to report all cases of Elizabethkingia. The hospitals were also advised to save any specimens containing the bacteria for testing at public health laboratories. The IDPH sent out a second alert of the same nature on March 29, 2016. Recently, one isolate from Illinois has matched the same strain of Elizabethkingia which is causing the ongoing outbreak in Wisconsin.

Commenting on the Elizabethkingia case, Nirav D. Shah, MD, JD, the director of the IDPH, stated in a press release on April 12, 2016 that, “Illinois is working closely with the CDC and Wisconsin and Michigan health officials to investigate this outbreak and develop ways to prevent additional infections… IDPH will continue to coordinate with hospitals and health care providers to quickly identify and report cases of Elizabethkingia.”

To date, there have been 57 lab-confirmed cases of Elizabethkingia in Wisconsin, with two cases under investigation. Four additional cases have tested positive for Elizabethkingia, however, it is unclear whether these cases are linked to the outbreak, since the E. anophelis strain specimen from the original outbreak is no longer available for testing. As for Michigan and Illinois, there has only been one reported Elizabethkingia case per state, each of which has died. The CDC and respective departments of health are still conducting investigations.

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