An Illinois resident has died because of the same strain of bacteria that killed 18 in Wisconsin, health officials report.
The person's details were not released to the public but a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, Melaney Arnold, said that the patient had underlying health issues that could have contributed to the bacteria's effect on the body.
Health officials are requesting hospitals to save specimens that could be used for laboratory testing. They already alerted health professionals and hospitals to report any suspected cases of the said blood infection.
The laboratory tests conducted on the patient revealed the same strain of Elizabethkingia that has been confirmed in affected people in Wisconsin.
The blood infection, Elizabethkingia, has been linked to an outbreak in Wisconsin that began in November 2015. As of April 8, there are already 57 confirmed cases of the infection, with two people under investigation and another four possible cases, with a total of 67 cases reported to the Wisconsin Department of Public Health.
Elizabethkingia anopheles, the causative agent of the infection, is commonly found in soil and water.
"It's a bacteria that exists normally in the environment," said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
"It exists in water and soil. It's everywhere around us," Shah said, adding that the bacteria is relatively new.
"It is an area of intense scientific investigation right now. We are working very closely with the Wisconsin Department of Health," he added.
The bacteria, however, does not commonly cause disease in humans. If it does, it could lead to a blood infection characterized by fever, shortness of breath, chills and cellulitis, a type of skin infection.
It has also been observed that majority of individuals affected are over 65 years old and most of them had suffered from an underlying health condition.
This disease may cause alarm but it is important to note that it's not transmitted from one person to another.
"The majority of the infections identified to date have been bloodstream infections, but some patients have had Elizabethkingia isolated from other sites, such as their respiratory systems or joints," the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a statement.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an update of the number of cases across three affected states, namely Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan. Michigan reports one confirmed case who also died from the bacterial infection. A total of 59 cases were reported as of April 12, with 20 deaths.