Blood infection potentially linked to 18 deaths in Wisconsin - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Blood infection potentially linked to 18 deaths in Wisconsin

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MADISON (WQOW) -- The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) on Thursday revealed the counties that have cases of Elizabethkingia, a bloodstream infection caused by a bacteria.

DHS reports it has been found in 44 patients in southern Wisconsin and has been potentially linked to 18 deaths. The agency says it is investigating to find the source.

The Eau Claire City-County Health Department said the uncommon infection tends to affect people with compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions like uncontrolled diabetes, lung or blood conditions. DHS said most of those infected were 65 or older. 

The Eau Claire City-County Health Department said there have not been any signs of the infection in Eau Claire, but everyone should be aware of the symptoms: fever, shortness of breath, chills, or a bacterial skin infection. Health officials said Elizabethkingia does not seem to be spread from person to person, but admitted they did not know what the source of the infection is. 

"There are a lot of unanswered questions, but certainly we will continue to monitor this and make people aware of any new developments that come about," Eau Claire City-County Health Department Public Health Nurse Jackie Krumenauer said. 

The health department said the key to battling the bacteria is to identify the symptoms early on and share any concerns with a local health professional.

The counties with cases include Dane, Dodge, Sauk, Columbia, Fon du Lac, Waukesha, Jefferson, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine and Washington.

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MADISON (WQOW) -- Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is investigating an outbreak of bloodstream infections caused by a bacteria called Elizabethkingia.

According to the department's Division of Public Health (DPH), Elizabethkingia has been found in 44 patients in southeast and southern Wisconsin. State Health Officer Karen McKeown said, “As soon as we were notified of the potential outbreak, Wisconsin’s disease detectives began working immediately to identify the source.” 

DPH reports that it was first notified of six potential cases between December 29, 2015 and January 4, 2016 and set up statewide surveillance on January 5, 2016.  The department says it then alerted health care providers, infection preventionists, and laboratories statewide of the presence of the Elizabethkingia bacteria, and provided information as well as treatment guidance. DPH believes this has led to a rapid identification of cases, and appropriate treatment.

According to a DHS press release, the illness associated with Elizabethkingia typically affects people with compromised immune systems or serious underlying health conditions. It can lead to death. Eighteen patients who tested positive for the Elizabethkingia infection, during this outbreak, have died. However, it has not been determined if the cause is the bacterial infection, or the patients’ other serious health conditions, or both.

“Determining the source of the bacteria affecting patients in Wisconsin is a complex process,” McKeown said. “While we recognize there will be many questions we cannot yet answer, we feel it is important to share the limited information we have about the presence of the bacteria, as we continue our work to determine the source.”

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