Two new Wisconsin deaths linked to mysterious infection

AP and WiG

Additional deaths have been linked to an unprecedented outbreak of a bloodstream infection in Wisconsin, where the number of cases has been growing since November.

The state Department of Health Services says 17 people with infections caused by the Elizabethkingia bacteria (named for the researcher who discovered it) have died since the outbreak began in November. That’s an increase of two deaths since last week.

The number of cases in 12 Wisconsin counties has also grown, from 48 to 54. The first cases were in southeastern parts of the state, including Milwaukee.

Health officials say the Wisconsin outbreak is the largest recorded in published literature. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the organism is common in the environment, including water and soil, but it rarely causes infections. Because the cases tested so far come from the same genetic “fingerprint,” investigators are looking for a common source. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has seven investigators in Wisconsin searching for that source.

It was initially feared that tap water was carrying the bacteria, but testing of water in the state found no evidence of the bacteria.

Symptoms of infection include fever, chills and shortness of breath. Cases are mostly among elderly people and those with compromised immune systems.