(WBAY) – Elizabethkingia is spreading in Wisconsin and traveling north, with four new cases reported in Sheboygan County, according to an update from the Department of Health Services (DHS) Wednesday afternoon.
Previously the cases had been limited to Southern and Western Wisconsin.
To date there are 48 confirmed cases in Wisconsin, prompting the federal government to send additional investigators to determine the source of the deadly bacterial blood infection which has claimed the lives of 15 people. However, officials can’t say if they died from the bacterial infection or an underlying medical issue, since the illness usually affects people with compromised immune systems or serious underlying health conditions.
Initially DHS officials reported that 18 people died, but that number was revised to 15 on Wednesday.
Jennifer Miller a communications specialist with DHS says the agency initially reported the incorrect number because DHS couldn’t confirm that a patient who died actually had the infection. In other cases, she said a patient may have been counted more than once.
On Wednesday, Gov. Scott Walker appeared in Appleton to meet with Wisconsin’s Emergency Management and Homeland Security to address containment of the growing outbreak.
Back on March 2, The Wisconsin DHS, Division of Public Health (DPH) announced it is investigating the outbreak.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially sent three investigators to Wisconsin, but that number has now increased to eight, according to Melissa Brower, a public affairs specialist with the CDC.
According to Brower, on Feb. 8, the Wisconsin Division of Public Health requested that CDC send a team to assist with their investigation into the outbreak.
About a week later, on Feb. 14, three CDC staff members traveled to Wisconsin, Brower said.
On Feb. 23, two more CDC staff members traveled to Wisconsin to provide additional support for the investigation.
“Between March 3 and March 6, members of the initial CDC team were swapped out for other CDC staff members, and the total number of CDC staff members in Wisconsin rose to eight,” Brower said noting that as of right now, Wisconsin is the only state with confirmed cases.
According to DHS, cases have been reported in the following counties: Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Jefferson, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sauk, Washington, Waukesha, and now Sheboygan County.
Most of the patients are over the age of 65, according to State Health Officer Karen McKeown.
DPH was first notified of six potential cases between Dec. 29, 2015 and Jan. 4, 2016 and set up statewide surveillance on Jan. 5, 2016.
Symptoms of Elizabethkingia include fever, shortness of breath, and chills. There may also be cellulitis, a redness and swelling from a skin infection that may feel hot and tender to the touch.
Suspicion of having the infection should be higher if a patient has multiple chronic conditions, including, particularly malignancy, diabetes mellitus, chronic renal disease or end-stage renal disease on dialysis, alcohol dependence, alcoholic cirrhosis, immune compromising conditions or immunosuppressive treatment. A lab test is required to confirm a true diagnosis.