Assembly Democrats want to know why state health officials
delayed telling people that a blood infection was spreading
Department of Health Services began investigating an
Elizabethkingia outbreak in December. The agency told
hospitals to be on the lookout for infections in January but
didn't announce it to the public until March.
Democratic leaders sent Gov. Scott Walker a letter Thursday
asking for an explanation and how DHS will avoid "these
officials said this month that they didn't want to alarm the
public because they hadn't determined the source, which
limited advice on how to avoid infections. DHS spokeswoman
Julie Lund re-emphasized that point in an email to The
Associated Press on Friday, saying that early on the agency
couldn't offer any information about the outbreak that would
help with prevention.
carefully considered the impact of sharing what limited
information we had," Lund wrote. "We alerted the
public once we had a general understanding of who is most
likely to be affected by this outbreak, the region where the
outbreak is located, and how it can be successfully treated.
This allowed us to be transparent, while limiting the risk
of unwarranted, widespread fears."
stressed that there's been no infections involving children.
Most of the people who were infected were over age 65 and
all of them have serious, underlying health conditions. Of
those infected, 19 people have died in Wisconsin, although
it's unclear whether the infection or some other underlying
condition killed them.
spokesman Jack Jablonski said in his own email to The
Associated Press that the governor approved nine additional
DHS positions to help investigate the outbreak earlier this
month. He said DHS officials would respond to the lawmakers
and clarifying their facts.