59 confirmed cases of blood infection in WI is largest known outbreak

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Two more potential cases of Elizbethkingia anophelis have been reported in Wisconsin, which could add to what is already the biggest outbreak of the mysterious blood infection in the U.S.

There are now 59 confirmed cases of the disease the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced, making it the largest known outbreak of this strain in the country.

And for the first time in the state the infection was found in an infant, FOX 6 reports.

According to the most recent figures:

  • The two potential cases are still under investigation, with more testing needed after preliminary lab work was done.
  • And there are four "possible" cases of the infection – meaning Elizabethkingia was confirmed, but there aren't any specimens left to test for the strain. In each one, it was an adult with "serious, underlying health conditions."

The source of these infections is still unknown, despite a CDC investigation.

There have been 18 deaths in Wisconsin among individuals with confirmed Elizabethkingia anophelis infections and an additional one death among possible cases for a total of 19 deaths. Since the infections are most common among people 65 years and older, it is has not been determined if these deaths were caused by the infection or other serious pre-existing health problems.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker approved nine additional positions at the Department of of Health Services in response to the outbreak, but since then, there has been a cluster outbreak in Illinois and another fatal case in Michigan, the Mayo Clinic reported.

Six of the 10 people in Illinois with the infection have died, the DPH of Illinois stated. There have been no cases in Minnesota.

What is Elizabethkingia?

The CDC says that the Elizabethkingia bacteria is commonly found in the environment worldwide and has been detected in soil, river water and reservoirs. However, it rarely makes people sick, which is what makes the current outbreak so mysterious.

Signs and symptoms of Elizabethkingia can include fever, shortness of breath, chills or celluliti.

The treatment for Elizabethkingia is antibiotics, but since the bacteria is naturally resistant to many of the antibiotics that physicians may typically use to treat infections. However, the strain in the current outbreak can be treated with several other antibiotics, so early recognition of the bacteria is critical for appropriate treatment, the CDC said.

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