Elizabethkingia bacteria found in baby

Posted at 10:01 PM, Apr 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-27 23:53:17-04

The latest Elizabethkingia bacteria has been found in a baby, who is being treated at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children's Hospital. 

It could be the first case of an infant being affected by the outbreak, officials told TODAY's TMJ4  during an exclusive interview Wednesday.

An email went out to staff of the NICU Tuesday alerting them that the bacteria Elizabethkingia has been found in a baby, but there's no indication of a serious infection.

The email says a sample of the bacteria was sent to the state health department and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to confirm a positive match for Elizabethkingia.

The email goes on to say that Children's Hospital is working closely with both government agencies, "to determine if they're going to make any new recommendations regarding testing of other NICU patients, staff and families."

The email notes that the bacteria is not spread through air, and is destroyed by following proper hand-washing protocols, already in place at Children's Hospital. Additionally, exposure to the bacteria poses minimal, if any risk, to healthy individuals.

Elizabethkingia, which infects the bloodstream and resides in the respiratory tract, originated in Wisconsin. No one knows the source.

Concerns over Elizabethkingia are growing. Governor Scott Walker has created nine new positions in the state health department to find the source of the outbreak, which is spreading fastest in our state. Since the infections began in November of 2015, there have been 59 confirmed cases of Elizabethkingia in 12 Wisconsin counties. So far, 19 people have died. 

Counties where these deaths occurred are: Columbia, Dodge, Fond du lac, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan, Washington and Waukesha.

 The disease has now crossed state lines, with confirmed cases in Michigan and Illinois. 

Elizabethkingia can prove fatal in anyone with a compromised immune system, and most of the infections have occurred in health care settings. 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, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Children's Hospital released this statement to TODAY'S TMJ4:

"Children's Hospital has identified the bacterium Elizabethkingia in a Neonatal ICU patient. There is no indication of serious infection in that child and the patient's family is aware. A sample of the organism has been provided to the State Health Department and CDC.

There are multiple strains of this organism and all known strains are successfully treated with antibiotics. This organism is not transferred easily from person to person, meaning that Children's standard infection prevention protocols are effective in preventing the spread of the disease.

At this time the CDC and State Department of Hygiene do not recommend culturing any additional patients or staff."

Steve Schuster contributed to this report.