As part of its investigation into a rare infection that can be associated with infant formula, the New Mexico Department of Health is advising people on the safest way to prepare formula. The Department of Health is investigating two cases of Enterobacter sakazakii illness, a rare cause of bloodstream and central nervous system infections, in a female infant from Lea County and a male infant from Otero County. The male infant has died, and the female infant is hospitalized.

E. sakazakii can cause severe, invasive disease among infants and has been associated with powdered formula, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been about 120 cases recorded across the world in all age groups, but infants are at particular risk. Some proportion of powdered formulas that have been tested have contained E. sakazakii or other bacteria that can cause disease.

The Department of Health is working with the CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and New Mexico Environment Department to try to determine what caused the babies to develop the infection. The Department of Health has interviewed families and conducted environmental and food testing. The Department expects test results to be available in about a week.

Testing at the Department of Health’s Scientific Laboratory in Albuquerque has determined that the two infants had different strains of the bacteria. Both babies did consume powdered formula in addition to other foods. In past investigations in other states, powdered infant formula contaminated with Enterobacter sakazakii has been associated with infant illnesses. However, that association was not documented in many of the cases investigated.