Wisconsin’s Curious Outbreak

Officials are puzzling over an outbreak of Elizbethkingia, a rare bacterial infection of the bloodstream with a royal-sounding name, spreading across Wisconsin.

So far, a dozen counties in the state have reported 48 cases and 15 deaths. Only the elderly with a history of underlying serious illness are affected, making it hard to confirm whether Elizabethkingia or the underlying illness caused their deaths. The general public is not deemed at risk.

In a Wisconsin Public Radio Q&A, Dr. Nasia Safdar, director of infection control at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and a UW School of Medicine and Public Health faculty member, provides a crash course on the mysterious outbreak. The outbreak is unusual, she says, because the state typically sees sporadic cases, usually in a health care facility context; this outbreak is the largest of its kind seen so far—spanning a dozen counties—and seems community-based.

Reuters reported that CDC experts dispatched to Wisconsin to investigate have tested samples from health care products, water sources and the environment as potential sources, but have not yet pinpointed the culprit.

And, if you’re wondering where the name comes from, the bacteria is named after Elizabeth King, who identified it while studying pediatric meningitis in 1959.
ABC2 Wisconsin reports.

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