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Listeria outbreak in Italian-style deli meats leads to nine hospitalizations, one death

A Listeria outbreak linked to deli meats has killed one and hospitalized nine across Florida, New York and Massachusetts.

The CDC currently believes the outbreak is linked to Italian-style deli meats, such as prosciutto, mortadella, or salami, which were either bought prepackaged, or sliced at delis at various locations.

A specific type of deli meat, brand or supplier have not yet been identified 

One person in Florida died from their illness, while another nine had to seek hospital treatment. They said they had all consumed deli-style meats within a month of their illness. 

The current Listeria outbreak has been linked to the consumption of Italian-style deli meats

While only a few people have been sickened, the outbreak stretches across the East Coast, with people impacted in Florida (one case), Massachusetts (seven cases), and New York (two cases) so far.

The CDC reports that eight of those who have gotten sick are women, though that’s not typically a factor in Listeria infections.

The CDC is advising people not to eat deli meats unless they are heated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, particularly if a consumer is at a higher risk of developing an illness from Listeria.

Those most likely to get sick from Listeria are newborns, pregnant women, the elderly over 65 years old, and those with compromised immune systems.

Those who have become sick from this outbreak range in age from 40 to 89 years old, with the median age of the patients being 81 years old. 

WHAT IS LISTERIA?

The above image is a computer illustration of the organism Listeria monocytogenes bacterium

WHAT IT IS, THE RISKS, AND HOW TO AVOID IT 

  • Listeria is everywhere in the environment
  • It’s a type of bacterium that infects humans and other warm-blooded animals through contaminated food
  • It’s found in dirty water, irrigation water, soil and fertiliser
  • Soft cheeses such as Camembert; cold chicken and deli meats; raw seafood and cold seafood such as smoked salmon; ice cream, fresh fruit and bagged vegetables can also carry Listeria
  • Infection can also occur through contact with animals and pests and insufficient cleaning of contaminated fruit and unclean hands 

WHO IS SUSCEPTIBLE … AND THE SYMPTOMS

  • Pregnant women, infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk
  • Listeria starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea and sometimes diarrhoea
  • The time from consuming the bacterium to showing the signs of illness can often be between 8 to 90 days
  • Some people end up in hospital with dehydration 

HOW TO AVOID IT

  • Don’t buy bruised or damaged fruit, wash it before eating and refrigerate within two hours of slicing
  • Avoid foods past their ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date
  • Cook foods thoroughly
  • Reheat food until it is steaming hot
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly and use within 24 hours, or freeze
  • Ready to eat food should never be stored in the fridge for too long as Listeria is one of the few pathogens that can grow in the refrigerator

Source: Food Authority NSW, Food Safety Information Council

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