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Elizabethkingia outbreak spreads to Illinois — but source still a mystery

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Illustration of bacteria cells (Shutterstock)

A northern Illinois resident who died after being diagnosed this year with a blood infection known as Elizabethkingia had the same strain of the bacteria linked to more than a dozen deaths in Wisconsin, health officials said on Tuesday.

Neither the resident’s age nor many other details were released, but Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), said the individual had suffered from underlying health issues.

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IDPH officials have sent alerts to hospitals requesting they report all cases of Elizabethkingia and save any specimens for possible laboratory testing, Arnold added in a statement.

The infection has infected 48 mostly elderly people in Wisconsin, killing 15. Both Michigan and Illinois have each reported one death and one person infected, the statement said.

The patients who died in Wisconsin had serious underlying conditions, health officials have said, and it remains unclear whether the bacteria caused all the fatalities.

Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois investigators are working with Atlanta-based The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine the possible source of the bacteria.

Elizabethkingia bacteria are rarely reported to cause illness in humans, and can sometimes be found in the respiratory tract. Symptoms can include fever, shortness of breath and chills or cellulitis. Confirmation of the illness requires a laboratory test.

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(Reporting by Justin Madden; Editing by Daniel Wallis and James Dalgleish)


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