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Deadly Blood Disease Spreads to Michigan, Source remains Mystery

Washington: The Michigan Department of Health has said that the rare blood infection Elizabethkingiam, which was responsible for sickening dozens in Wisconsin since November, has been identified in a Michigan resident.

According to the department, the older adult who was infected died of underlying health conditions. There have been 54 cases reported to the Wisconsin Department of Public Health.

"The majority of patients acquiring this infection are over the age of 65, and all patients have a history of at least one underlying serious illness," a statement from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said.

At least 17 of those individuals have died, but it remains to be confirmed that the infection was responsible for the death or the patients' underlying health conditions.

The bacteria is commonly found in soil, river water and reservoirs but is not known to infect humans. Experts maintain that people with weak immune systems or serious underlying health conditions are more at risk of infection. Since the infection is resistant to antibiotic, its treatment is not easy. Elizabethkingia infection symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, chills and a bacterial skin infection called cellulitis.

"Michigan has worked closely with the CDC and Wisconsin Health Department to alert our provider community about the Wisconsin outbreak and to ensure early recognition of potential cases in our state" Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.

CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said nothing was surprising about the case in Michigan as health departments across the country were asked to be on the lookout for Elizabethkingia infections after identification of the outbreak in Wisconsin. The CDC team is still working in Wisconsin. "The work is labor-intensive. Lots of people are working around the clock, a very wide net has been cast looking at lots of different possibilities," Skinner said.