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Northern Illinois Resident’s Death Linked to Wisconsin Elizabethkingia Outbreak

Update Date: Apr 13, 2016 05:20 AM EDT

A Northern Illinois resident who recently died after being diagnosed with a blood infection called Elizabethkingia was reportedly had the same strain of bacteria that caused multiple deaths in Wisconsin, said the Illinois Department of Public Health on Tuesday.

According to Reuters, the patient's identity and other information were kept. However,              spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Melaney Arnold said that the patient had suffered from undisclosed health issues.

The IDPH officials have alerted the hospitals and requested to report all cases of Elizabethkingia. The hospitals were also asked to save any specimens for laboratory testing.

Most of the 48 people who got infected with the blood infection in Wisconsin were elderly, and 15 of them died. Michigan reported one death and one infected, same with Illinois.

The three states are now working with investigators from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to know where the bacteria came from.

The infection mostly appears in the blood stream and does not appear to be transferred from person to person. The current outbreak mostly affected elderlies over 65, as reported by ABC 7.

"Typically in a given year in the United States, we see 5 to 10 infections in humans with this bacteria. And over just the past few months there's been nearly 60 cases in just three states," said Dr. Chad Achenbach, Northwestern Medicine.

The outbreak in Wisconsin started late December. A total of 57 cases of Elizabethkingia were reported in that state killing 18 of the patients.

"It does have a fairly high, what we would call a case fatality rate of nearly one-third of those infected," Dr. Achenbach said.

Dr. Achenbach stated that the high death rate must have something to do with the patients' old age and other health issues and not much the bacterial infection itself.

The symptoms of Elizabethkingia include high fever, headache, chills, cough and joint pain. In some cases, the patient shows cellulitis, a skin infection.

The Elizabethkingia bacterium is named after Elizabeth O. King, a bacteriologist who researched meningitis in infants. It is commonly present in the environment such as soil and water and rarely causes infection. It is sometimes present in the respiratory tract and confirmation of illness requires a lab test.

The general public should not worry, said Dr. Achenbach. He also said that raising awareness among healthcare providers is his goal.

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