Residents of Wisconsin shouldn’t panic just yet, but there have been multiple reports of Elizabethkingia -- a bloodstream infection causing fever, shortness of breath and chills -- that has not only infected more than 50 people in the Badger State, but has also sent 15 to their deathbeds, according to STAT.
While the majority of cases involve patients over 65, many of whom have other underlying health problems, the uncommon microbes should still be of concern as 4 new infections have been brought to attention within the last two weeks. The infection began to spread in November of 2015 and since then has affected 54 different people in surrounding cities of Milwaukee.
Dr. Michael Bell, deputy director of the division of healthcare quality promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is highly unusual for nearly 50 cases to be identified in such a small geographic area.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Division of Public Health (DPH) are currently investigating the case testing a variety of potential sources including health care products, environmental features and water sources, but have yet to find the source of the respiratory tract infection.
What is even more curious about these cases is that Elizabethkingia -- discovered by CDC scientist, Elizabeth O. King -- is generally a harmless microbe that rarely causes infections in people. Elizabethkingia has not traditionally been a major issue, but experts are becoming concerned because of its high resistance to disinfectants and antibiotics.
So far, scientists have yet to discover the source of bacteria at the root of the outbreak and officials are saying that it is unlikely that the infection stems from contaminated ground water, but these options, as well as many others, still remain on the table for investigation.