A deadly listeria outbreak linked to deli meats and cheeses has led to an alert in six states, including Illinois. So what do you need to know about the outbreak and what signs should you look out for?
The outbreak has already left at least two people sick in Illinois, along with several others in several states.
Here’s what we know about the listeria outbreak and infections, their symptoms and who they affect most.
Where was an alert issued and what do we know so far?
Two people in Illinois have been sickened by a deadly listeria outbreak linked to deli meats and cheese, the CDC announced Wednesday.
A total of 16 people have been sick across six states – New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois, New Jersey and California. The majority of the outbreak is in New York City, according to health officials.
According to the authorities, most of the sick people have been hospitalized. Illness resulted in loss of pregnancy and illness resulted in death, according to the CDC.
Officials say preliminary information shows that deli meats and cheese purchased from deli counters in several states are the likely sources of this outbreak. However, according to investigators, it is difficult to pinpoint a single food as the source of outbreaks linked to deli meats and cheeses.
Eleven of those who fell ill are of Eastern European descent or speak Russian and investigators are trying to figure out why.
What is listeria?
Listeria is a persistent germ that can be difficult to get rid of from surfaces and equipment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.
CDC data showed that about 1,6000 people get sick from it every year, with about 260 deaths.
Who is most at risk of becoming infected with listeria?
Listeria is especially dangerous for the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.
According to the Mayo Clinic, pregnant women are much more susceptible to listeria infections than other healthy adults, but although an infection only causes mild illness in pregnant women, it could have greater consequences for their babies. These include:
- Premature birth
- A life-threatening infection after birth
What are the symptoms of listeria?
Symptoms of listeria poisoning include fever, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea, but the severity of symptoms will largely depend on the person. People who are not at high risk can become infected, but cases of serious illness are rarer.
According to the CDC, symptoms of invasive disease, or those in which “bacteria have spread beyond the intestines,” typically begin within two weeks of eating contaminated food.
- Flu-like symptoms, such as muscle aches and fatigue
What should people do?
Here is what the CDC recommends:
- If you’re at higher risk, don’t eat meat or cheese from a deli counter unless it’s been reheated to an internal temperature of 165°F or until steaming hot.
- Clean your refrigerator, containers and surfaces that may have touched meat or cheese from a deli.
- Call your healthcare provider right away if you have severe listeria symptoms after eating meat or cheese from a deli.