Lakeshore News

Elizabethkingia Outbreak Update

The Department of Health Services (DHS) today provided an update regarding its investigation of the Elizabethkingia anophelis outbreak and responded to Democratic legislators who shared concerns about DHS’ investigation into the outbreak.

 

The Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene (WSLH) has completed testing of laboratory specimens of two suspected cases of Elizabethkingia submitted last week, and determined one of those cases is related to the outbreak, bringing the number of confirmed cases of Elizabethkingia anophelis associated with this outbreak to 60. Most of the people affected by this outbreak are over 65, and all have serious, underlying health conditions. None of the confirmed cases associated with this outbreak are children.

According to State Health Officer Karen McKeown, this is the largest known outbreak of this strain in the United States. “Disease detectives in our Division of Public Health (DPH) have been working aggressively, with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), to locate the source of the outbreak,” said McKeown. “Since the onset of the Elizabethkingia anophelis outbreak, we have worked diligently to provide accurate, comprehensive information, and to prevent the spread of misleading information that can lead to unwarranted fear among the public. Our top priority is the health and safety of the people we serve.”

Late last week, Governor Scott Walker received a letter from Democratic legislators expressing concerns about the DPH investigation of this outbreak. Today, DPH, the lead agency in the Elizabethkingia anophelis investigation, responded to the letter (PDF, 176 KB).

DPH staff first received reports of infected patients between December 29, 2015, and January 4, 2016. DPH immediately reached out to CDC for guidance on January 5, 2016, as this appeared to be an outbreak with a unique organism, and immediately launched the investigation with CDC’s guidance and assistance, and reached out to health care partners to request and share information.

“Our civil service employees (who include nationally recognized scientists) within DPH are committed to protecting the health and wellness of all Wisconsinites, and this is reflected in the work they have done investigating the Elizabethkingia anophelis outbreak,” said McKeown. “We will continue to work in collaboration with our partners at CDC, WSLH, local health departments, and with health care facilities and clinicians, to determine the source of the Elizabethkingia anophelis outbreak and provide appropriate treatment guidance.”

Elizabethkingia anophelis are bacteria that are rarely reported to cause illness in humans, but can cause infection that may be life threatening among people with compromised immune systems. DHS maintains a webpage that includes the latest number of cases related to, or potentially related to, the Elizabethkingia anophelis outbreak currently under investigation in Wisconsin. DHS will continue to share accurate information related to this investigation as it is available.

In early April, after meeting with DPH about the Elizabethkingia anophelis investigation, as well as other public health issues, Governor Walker approved the addition (link is external) of nine (9) project positions so that DPH may continue to work aggressively to locate the source of the outbreak, and continue its work on all other outbreaks that affect public health.

For more information go to the DHS Elizabethkingia webpage.

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Lakeshore News

DHS Statement on Elizabethkingia Outbreak

The Department of Health Services (DHS) released the following statement on the Elizabethkingia anophelis outbreak:

Our top priority is the health and safety of the people we serve.  Since the onset of the Elizabethkingia anophelis outbreak, we have worked diligently to provide accurate, comprehensive information, and to prevent the spread of misleading information that can lead to unwarranted fear among the public.  We are also strongly committed, legally and ethically, to protecting the privacy of those we serve.

Elizabethkingia anophelis is bacteria that can lead to infection, which may be life-threatening among people with compromised immune systems.  We have identified 59 confirmed cases of the presence of the bacteria in Wisconsin, which is the largest known outbreak of this strain in the United States.  Our Division of Public Health (DPH) has been working aggressively, with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), to locate the source of the outbreak.  Governor Scott Walker recently approved (link is external) the addition of nine (9) project positions so that DPH may continue to work aggressively to locate the source of the outbreak, but at this point, the source has not been identified.

Most of the people affected by this outbreak are over 65, and all have serious, underlying health conditions.  None of the confirmed cases associated with this outbreak are children.

DHS maintains a webpage which includes the latest number of cases related to, or potentially related to, the Elizabethkingia anophelis outbreak currently under investigation in Wisconsin. This webpage was last updated Wednesday, April 27 with the latest number of:

Confirmed cases (59) – Cases in which lab results show the strain of Elizabethkingia anophelis is consistent with the strain causing the outbreak in Wisconsin. All confirmed cases are among adults with serious, underlying health conditions.

Possible cases (4) – Cases confirmed as Elizabethkingia, whose laboratory specimens are no longer available to test for the strain.  These cases are also all adults with serious, underlying health conditions.

Cases under investigation (2) – Cases in which there has been a preliminary lab test which requires further analysis.  Results of further testing by the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene (WSLH) may include:

  • Elizabethkingia anophelis – Strain is consistent with the current outbreak in Wisconsin.
  • Elizabethkingia anophelis – Strain is not consistent with the outbreak in Wisconsin.
  • Elizabethkingia meningoseptica – Strain that is known to affect infants, particularly premature infants. This strain is not related to the current outbreak in Wisconsin.
  • Other Elizabethkingia species – Some have been known to cause colonization or infection among children or adults with compromised immune systems.

The WSLH received the samples from the two cases under investigation today, and has begun the testing process.   This analysis will be complete by early next week.

We will continue to work in collaboration with our partners at CDC, WSLH, local health departments, and with health care facilities and clinicians, to determine the source of the Elizabethkingia anophelis outbreak and provide appropriate treatment guidance.  DHS will continue to share accurate information related to this investigation as it is available.

For more information, go to the DHS Elizabethkingia webpage.
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