Update: CDC declared this Listeria outbreak investigation over on Oct. 23. The final case count was 30 in 10 states. Three deaths were reported — two from California and one from Ohio. The original story from Sept. 18 follows: Turkish-string-cheese_406x250Whole genome sequencing has allowed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to connect at least 24 Listeria infections over the past five years to soft cheese. The 24 illnesses in nine states have been report since Aug. 8, 2010. One death was reported from Ohio. Twenty-one people were hospitalized. Five illnesses were pregnancy-related; one resulted in a fetal loss. The illnesses are in California (14), Colorado (1), Illinois (1), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (1), New York (2), Ohio (1), Tennessee (1), and Washington (1). CDC says that additional illnesses are under investigation. There are five rare DNA fingerprints of Listeria included in this investigation, which whole genome sequencing has shown to be closely related genetically. The cluster was first identified in August 2015 after investigators saw an increase in one of the five rare PFGE fingerprints reported to PulseNet. Whole genome sequencing found that the three other PFGE fingerprints were closely related genetically to the first outbreak strain. Illnesses associated with those PFGE fingerprints were added to the investigation, including illnesses that occurred more than five years ago. The investigation has not conclusively identified the source of this outbreak, but most ill people interviewed reported eating soft cheese before becoming ill. Fifteen victims are of Middle Eastern or Eastern European descent, or shopped at Middle Eastern-style markets. Of 22 ill people for whom information is available, 18 consumed soft cheeses, and 16 reported eating Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Mediterranean, or Mexican-style cheeses, including ani, feta (including Bulgarian feta), Middle Eastern-style string cheese, and nabulsi. Four of seven ill people who specified a brand of cheese reported brands distributed by Karoun Dairies. No other brand of cheese was reported more than once. On Sept. 16, 2015, Karoun Dairies Inc. voluntarily recalled and ceased production of certain cheeses that the company distributes due to possible contamination with Listeria. Products were sold under the following brands: Karoun, Arz, Gopi, Queso Del Valle, Central Valley Creamery, and Yanni. Products are vacuum-packed, in jars or in pails. Weights vary from 5 ounces to 30 pounds. Consumers should not eat, restaurants should not serve, and retailers should not sell the recalled cheeses. These products may be contaminated with Listeria and may make people sick. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)