The bacteria Elizabethkingia anopheles has claimed 17 lives over the last five months in 12 Wisconsin counties, and caused 54 people to become seriously ill. As yet, no one has been able to trace the source of the infection.
Elizabethkingia anopheles is named for a famous researcher who worked with the CDC in the mid-1900s. Found in the guts of mosquitoes, it is not a dangerous bacteria for anyone with a healthy immune system, but can cause life-threatening infections in young babies, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.
Most states don’t get more than five to 10 cases a year, so this represents a huge spike in infection rates. And the bacteria involved have, according to CDC official Michael Bell, the same “fingerprint,” despite the fact that cases of infection span 12 different counties.