Health officials investigate possible deadly bacterial bloodstream infection

Cases first reported Dec. 29

Forty-four people in southeastern and southern Wisconsin have tested positive for a bacteria that causes a bloodstream infection, according to a release from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

“The Elizabethkingia infection has been detected in 44 patients located in southeastern and southern Wisconsin. The majority of patients are over the age of 65 years, and all have serious underlying health conditions,” State Health Officer Karen McKeown said in the release. “As soon as we were notified of the potential outbreak, Wisconsin’s disease detectives began working immediately to identify the source.”

Officials said Elizabethkingia typically affects people with compromised immune systems or serious underlying health conditions, and can lead to death.

DPH was first notified of six potential cases between Dec. 29 and Jan. 4, and set up statewide surveillance on Jan. 5, according to the release.

Eighteen people who tested positive for Elizabethkingia have died. Officials said while the 18 people tested positive for the bacteria, 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.”

DHS officials said they are trying to determine the source of the bacteria, and are working to contain the outbreak.

UW Health officials said UW Hospital has not had any of the cases.