A new outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes has already killed three people, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said late Tuesday. The deaths are being blamed on cheese imported from Italy.
According to CDC, a total of 14 persons are infected with the outbreak strain in 11 states and the District of Columbia. All have been hospitalized, but three have died. CDC said Listeriosis contributed to at least one of the deaths.
The CDC report on the outbreak came 24 hours after Long Island-based Forever Cheese recalled one of its imported cheese brands for possible Listeria contamination.
The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: California (1), Colorado (1), District of Columbia (1), Maryland (3), Minnesota (1), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (1) and Virginia (1).
It also said the problem was being investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Later Tuesday, Maryland state health officials said three people with Listeria illnesses were being treated in area hospitals.
The cheese was sold to distributors for retailers and restaurants in California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington between June 20, 2012 and August 9, 2012.
Neither Forever Cheese nor FDA has released a “consumer friendly” distribution list of establishments that received the bad cheese.
Consumers who purchased recalled Frescolina brand ricotta salata cheese are advised not to eat it and to discard any remaining cheese. CDC said this is especially important for pregnant women, persons with weakened immune systems and older adults.
“When in doubt, throw it out,” advises the agency.
Listeriosis (infection with Listeria bacteria) can be very serious. The elderly, pregnant women and immune compromised individuals are especially at-risk for serious illness from the bacteria. As a result, Listeria outbreaks have the potential for fatality rates of up to 40 percent.
Listeriosis symptoms include fever and muscle aches, diarrhea and other stomach illness.
The incubation period before the onset of symptoms can take be up to two months.
The last major Listeria outbreak in the U.S. occurred last year when cantaloupes grown in southeastern Colorado sickened 147 in 28 states, causing 33 deaths. It was the most deadly food-related outbreak in a century.© Food Safety News