Wisconsin Bacteria Outbreak: Deadly bacteria infection spreads across Midwest, health officials search for source “Details”

Wisconsin Bacteria Outbreak: Deadly bacteria infection spreads across Midwest, health officials search for source

Illinois death linked to Wisconsin bacteria outbreak that killed 18.

A death in Illinois has been tied to the Elizabethkingia bacteria outbreak that started in Wisconsin and has left state and federal health officials searching for the source of the issue.

The Illinois case, reported Tuesday, involves the same strain of the bacteria, Elizabethkingia anophelis. No other details were provided. Last month, officials said a death in Michigan was tied to the outbreak.

In Wisconsin, no new cases were reported Wednesday. In all, 63 cases have been confirmed in Wisconsin, including 18 deaths and one suspected death. It is not known if the deaths were caused by the infection or other serious health problems, which existed in many of the patients.

Elizabethkingia bacteria are found throughout the environment and usually are not harmful. Infections are rare, and outbreaks are even rarer. This is the largest known outbreak of this particular strain of Elizabethkingia.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with the state Department of Health Services to find a source of the outbreak. Last month, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin sent a letter to the CDC seeking answers to a series of questions.

In a response, released Wednesday, CDC officials said investigators have confirmed that those who have died or have been sickened shared no common water source and had no common exposure to a health care or personal care product.

“To date, we have assessed and ruled out high-threat sources such as municipal water supplies, commonly used medical products and tools,” the April 6 letter from CDC Director Thomas Frieden states.

Federal and state investigators have made “significant progress” in assessing other sources, according to Frieden’s letter. He noted that the main efforts have focused on reviewing medical records of patients, surveillance for cases, interviews with patients and family members, reviewing records of products purchased by patients and health care facilities, and evaluating living environments, among other tasks.

The team conducted extensive environmental sampling at the homes and health care areas of 11 patients but found no evidence of Elizabethkingia. Additional studies are pending, the letter states.There is evidence, however, that patients may carry the outbreak strain on their skin or in their throats after recovery. Yet testing of individuals in shared settings has shown no widespread carriage, the letter states.

The letter does not mention anything about potential food or beverage sources or activities relating to that aspect of the investigation. Johnson’s original letter did not ask specifically about that.

Officials said they plan to send additional investigators to Wisconsin. The team assigned to the state has ranged from seven to 11 people and more than 25 others in various divisions of the agency at the headquarters in Atlanta.