2016 United States Elizabethkingia outbreak

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Wisconsin in United States

2016 United States Elizabethkingia Outbreak

The 2016 United States Elizabethkingia outbreak was a significant public health incident involving the spread of the bacteria Elizabethkingia anophelis. This outbreak was notable for its severity and the challenges it posed to health authorities due to the rarity of the pathogen and its resistance to multiple antibiotics. The outbreak primarily affected the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois, with Wisconsin reporting the highest number of cases.

Background[edit | edit source]

Elizabethkingia anophelis is a gram-negative bacterium, often found in the environment, particularly in water and soil. It is named after Elizabeth O. King, a bacteriologist who first described the genus in the 1950s. Although it is not typically pathogenic to healthy individuals, it can cause serious infections in those with compromised immune systems, the elderly, and newborns. Infections can lead to conditions such as meningitis, bacteremia, and pneumonia, which can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Outbreak[edit | edit source]

The outbreak began in November 2015, with the first cases being reported in Wisconsin. Over the following months, the number of cases steadily increased, with over 60 cases confirmed by March 2016. The outbreak eventually resulted in at least 20 deaths, highlighting the pathogen's lethality.

Health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), launched an investigation to identify the source of the outbreak and to implement control measures. Despite extensive environmental and epidemiological studies, the exact source of the outbreak was not definitively identified. However, the investigation suggested that healthcare facilities might have played a role in the spread of the infection.

Response[edit | edit source]

In response to the outbreak, health departments in the affected states issued guidelines to healthcare facilities for the identification and management of potential cases. These guidelines included recommendations for rigorous infection control practices and the use of specific antibiotics known to be effective against Elizabethkingia.

The CDC also provided support in the form of laboratory testing, epidemiological expertise, and guidance on the management of the outbreak. This collaborative effort between state health departments and the CDC was crucial in managing the outbreak and preventing further spread of the infection.

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

The 2016 Elizabethkingia outbreak underscored the challenges posed by emerging infectious diseases and the importance of public health preparedness. It highlighted the need for improved surveillance systems, rapid diagnostic methods, and effective infection control practices to manage future outbreaks of rare pathogens.

In the aftermath of the outbreak, research into Elizabethkingia anophelis and its resistance mechanisms has intensified, with the aim of developing better diagnostic tools and treatment options. The outbreak also prompted discussions on the role of environmental reservoirs in the transmission of healthcare-associated pathogens.

See Also[edit | edit source]


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