Michigan health officials reported today the confirmation of a Elizabethkingia anophelis isolate in a blood culture in a resident who died which matches  the outbreak strain in Wisconsin.

Elizabethkingia anophelis growing on a blood agar plate. Image/CDC's Special Bacteriology Reference Lab
Elizabethkingia anophelis growing on a blood agar plate.
Image/CDC’s Special Bacteriology Reference Lab

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) last week of the match.

The Michigan case resulted in the death of an older adult with underlying health conditions in West Michigan.

“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 ensuring patients receive appropriate treatment, and we will continue to provide updates and guidance as additional information becomes available.”

Elizabethkingia is a genus of bacteria commonly found in the environment and has been detected in soil, river water and reservoirs. However, it rarely makes people sick. Illness associated with Elizabethkingia typically affects people with compromised immune systems or serious underlying health conditions. Most outbreaks associated with Elizabethkingiaare healthcare-associated. There are few reports of community-acquired infections.

Elizabethkingia infections are often difficult to treat with antibiotics.  These bacteria tend to be resistant to many of the antibiotics physicians may use to treat infections, so early recognition of the bacteria is critical to ensure patients receive appropriate treatment. The signs and symptoms of illness that can result from exposure to the bacteria can include fever, shortness of breath, chills or cellulitis. Confirmation of the illness requires a laboratory test.

To date, the Wisconsin Division of Public Health has detected 54 cases of Elizabethkingia infection among patients located in southeastern and southern Wisconsin.  The majority of these individuals are over the age of 65 years, and all have had serious underlying health conditions.  Seventeen of the patients have died, but it has not yet been determined whether the deaths were caused by the bacterial infection, the patients’ underlying health conditions, or both.