A bacterial infection called Elizabethkingia has already claimed 18 lives in Wisconsin. Now the first case confirmed here in Illinois has taken another life, reports CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey. Suburban Woman’s Death Linked To Elizabethkingia Outbreak – CBS Chicago
By Marissa Bailey

(CBS) — A bacterial infection called Elizabethkingia has already claimed 18 lives in Wisconsin. Now the first case confirmed here in Illinois has taken another life, reports CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey.

Fifty-two-year-old Kimberly Cencula of Lake Villa is the first person in Illinois to contract and die from the mysterious Elizabethkingia bacteria.

It’s unknown right now exactly how she contracted it.

“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.”

Dr. Shah says the bacteria is relatively new.

“It is an area of intense scientific investigation right now,” he said. “We are working very closely with the Wisconsin Department of Health.”

“Even with the CDC up there working with the Wisconsin Department of Health, they haven’t found where it’s coming from,” said infectious disease expert Dr. James Malow.

Elizabethkingia first popped up in Wisconsin. There were 57 cases confirmed from Milwaukee west to Madison and 18 people have died. There was also one confirmed case and death in Michigan.

“The majority of individuals who are affected are over the age of 65 and almost all of them have some prior health condition,” Shah said. “As a result of that, we don’t think that this is a bacteria that poses a general risk to the population.”

A family member told CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov that Cencula has an underlying health issue.

Symptoms include: fever, chills, cough, joint pain and in some cases a skin condition.

Doctor Shah says there are still more questions than answers.

“How it is transmitted?” Dr. Shah said. “How is it spread? What sort of diseases does it cause and how can we manage it? Those are very intense areas of investigation right now.”

Cencula’s samples were sent to the CDC for testing. The Illinois Department of Health received word on Friday that Cencula’s results tested positive for the Elizabethkingia bacteria. The Illinois Department of Health tells CBS 2 the strain of Elizabethkingia found in Cencula’s blood is the same as the strain found in the Wisconsin and Michigan cases.

It’s important to note the bacteria is not transmitted person to person.

Illinois state investigators are now interviewing Cencula’s family members and others in her social network to try and narrow down the origin.