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17 Wisconsinites have died as a result of Elizabethkingia since outbreak began in November

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MADISON — Additional deaths have been linked to an outbreak of a bloodstream infection as the number of cases grows in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says 17 people with infections caused by Elizabethkingia bacteria have died since the outbreak began in November. That’s an increase of two deaths since last week. The number of cases in 12 Wisconsin counties has also grown, from 48 to 54.

Health officials say the Wisconsin outbreak is the largest recorded in published literature.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the organism is common in the environment, including water and soil, but it rarely causes infections.

Because the cases tested so far come from the same genetic “fingerprint,” investigators are looking for a common source.

Meanwhile, health officials say they’ve confirmed that a western Michigan resident died after contracting a bloodstream infection that matches a Wisconsin outbreak.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says Thursday, March 17th that it was notified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the match on March 11th. Michigan officials say the person who died was an older adult with underlying health conditions.