Wisconsin health authorities are investigating an outbreak of a rare bacterial infection called Elizabethkingia.

It has mainly affected people over 65 and those with a history of at least one serious illness, according to a statement released this week from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Since November 1, 44 cases have been reported.

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"Elizabethkingia are bacteria that are rarely reported to cause illness in humans, and are uncommon colonizers of the respiratory tract," said the statement.

The cases were found in southern and southeastern Wisconsin, according to the Division of Public Health (DPH).

Elizabethkingia meningoseptica is a Gram negative, rod-shaped bacterium named after American bacteriologist Elizabeth King, who discovered it in 1959.

It’s widely distributed in soil, plants and water, but it rarely infects humans.

When it does, it mainly targets adults who are sick (with a disease such as cancer, diabetes or renal disease) or immunocompromised. It’s antibiotic-resistant, and the infection can be fatal.

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“Early detection and treatment with an effective antibiotic regimen is important to increase the probability of good outcomes,” the statement notes.

Although the bacteria are resistant to some drugs, tests on samples from the current outbreak show several types of antibiotics should work.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, fever, chills and cellulitis, a bacterial infection of the skin and tissues beneath it. A laboratory test is needed to confirm infection.

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Muriel Vega is a writer with a passion for budget travel and staying safe while abroad. A Georgia State University graduate, she has over 6 years of editorial experience and has written for The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Billfold, among other outlets. In her free time, you can find her baking pies, playing with her two dogs and cat, or planning her next vacation. She spends way too much time on Twitter, one of her favorite social media channels. Her favorite safety tip: Make sure you have all the necessary shots before you go abroad.