The modern age of medicine has afforded us a sense of safety when it comes to the traditional fear of infectious disease. Antibiotics, hand sanitizer, vaccines, and a host of other preventative and treatment methods make illnesses far less lethal than they have been for most of human existence. That’s why when an outbreak does occur it’s so shocking. We have come to have such an expectation of safety that it almost feels like we’ve been violated by some unwanted trespasser when we’re forced to deal with the dangers of the natural world.
Recently there has been a terrible outbreak in Wisconsin. The Elizabethkingia bacteria has already claimed 18 lives and has infected at least 57 more carriers since November. You can be forgiven for not recognizing the name as usually this bacteria sits idly in soil and river water, never having a chance to harm humans. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has described this outbreak as “very unusual” and believes it may be the largest outbreak of this bacteria on record. This particular strain has proven to be unfortunately resistant to many antibiotics and can amplify the lethality of preexisting infections. As always, the young and elderly, as well as those with compromised immune systems, are most at risk.
An Elizabethkingia infection typically manifests as fevers, shakes, and chills, or in some cases, as basic pneumonia. It’s also not uncommon to develop a skin condition known as cellulitis that causes skin to become red and inflamed in patches.
Medical Investigators are so far puzzled as to what could have caused the outbreak. Theories that include: contaminated medical supplies, drinking water, and even mosquito bites have been put forward but so far nothing is definitive. All we know for sure is that it’s spreading. It looks like Illinois may be next.