The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has confirmed a death in Michigan linked to a rare blood infection, caused by a bacteria called Elizabethkingia anophelis. The outbreak started in Wisconsin and is suspected to have caused 17 deaths out of 54 known cases.
Michigan authorities were notified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the positive result for the bacteria in a blood culture isolate from a Michigan resident. The victim was an older adult with underlying health conditions in West Michigan, according to a press release made by the MDHHS.
“Michigan has worked closely with the CDC and Wisconsin Health Department to alert our provider community about the Wisconsin outbreak and to ensure early recognition of potential cases in our state,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive of the MDHHS.
Timely diagnosis is key to ensure that patients receive appropriate treatment, commented Wells. They will continue to provide updates and guidance as additional information becomes available, she added.
Most of the infected in both states are over 65 years old and have a history of at least one underlying serious illness. At this time, the source of the outbreak remains unknown and health departments are working to contain the spread, according to a statement from the Department of Health Services (DHS) in Wisconsin.
Statewide the DHS has alerted health care workers, infection prevention and laboratories from the Elizabethkingia bacteria and provided them with the information and guidance required to overturn this outbreak. After the guidelines were sent, there have been a rapid identification of the bacteria and treatment have been provided to improve outcomes for patients.
What is the Elizabethkingia bacteria?
According to the CDC, is a common organism in the environment, which includes water and soil. It is rarely a cause of infection in humans and can affect people with compromised immune system or serious underlying health conditions, like the elderly who have been tested positive.
The first notified cases were between December 29 and January 4, 2016. Health officials then communicated the presence of the bacteria around the state. After the word got out, cases began to grow with one tested positive from November 2015.
The bacteria is named from its discoverer, Elizabeth King, a bacteriologist who studied it in 1959. It is been re-classified twice and was renamed after her in 2005, according to NBC News.