CDC investigating food sources as Elizabethkingia outbreak grows - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

CDC investigating food sources as Elizabethkingia outbreak grows to 48

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is reporting four more cases of Elizabethkingia in the Madison-Milwaukee area.

Wisconsin State Hygiene Communicable Disease Deputy Director David Warshauer says 48 cases is worrisome.

"Laboratories may see a case a year, so it is concerning,"  Dr. Warshauer said about the rare blood infection being found in 12 counties.  D.H.S does say they have revised the numbers of deaths from 18 to 15 possibly linked to the bacteria.

Right now, researchers in his lab are isolating Elizabethkingia DNA samples.  Just one of isolation can take up to 48 hours.  His lab has done more than 40 in the last few weeks.

"Everybody has been busy, hoping to find the source for this."

But CDC Spokesman Tom Skinner says there is no smoking gun just yet.

"It's safe to say that the outbreak is still ongoing and no source has been identified, but we're leaving no stone upturned with what is causing the outbreak."

Skinner says the C-D-C is ramping up recent efforts, bringing in three more disease detectives.  He says eight epidemiologists are now in the area.

 "We're now including any possible food source here that maybe implemented here, including any soil water or medical products that anyone who may have acquired this infection may have been using," Skinner said.

But Dr. Warshauer isn't sure food is the source.

"Food contamination is a possibility, probably not at the top of the epidemiologist's list, but they are considering every possibility," Dr. Warshauer said.
Dr. Warshauer says despite all the extra resource, he isn't sure they will find the origin.  He says it's sometimes just too difficult. 

The Elizabethkingia outbreak began in 2015 and most infections involve people older than 65 years of age.  Wisconsin State Department of Health Services says everyone infected has had at least one serious underlying illness.

Learn more tonight at 5 and 6 on 27 News.

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