Austrian officials have linked six Listeria infections to a German meat producer.

Products from Wilke Waldecker Fleisch- und Wurstwaren are suspected to be behind a Listeria outbreak in Germany involving 37 people and three deaths. One infection was recorded in 2014, three in 2016, four in 2017, 21 in 2018 and at least eight in 2019.

Between May 24 and Aug. 8, 2019, six people in Austria contracted an identical Listeria strain identified as Listeria monocytogenes IIa.

Following illnesses in the federal states of Carinthia, Styria, and Vienna the Federal Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection (BMASGK) asked the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) to investigate the outbreak.

Authorities in the Waldeck-Frankenberg district of Germany stopped production at a Wilke facility in Twistetal, Berndorf in October.

The suspected source of infection
The company recalled meat and sausage products from Austria in early October due to the connection with a foodborne outbreak in Germany. At the time, authorities said there had been no related illnesses in Austria.

AGES officials said while it was not possible to prove the source of infection beyond any doubt, epidemiological evidence pointed to the German meat producer as the source of infection.

“The fact that after the closure of the German production plant there were no further illnesses in Austria underlines the hypothesis of AGES.”

The United States is one of more than 20 countries that may have received meat from the German company linked to the outbreak.

A previous Listeria outbreak in Austria with the same sequence type (ST) of 155 and complex type (CT) 1234 affected seven people from November 2015 to September 2017.

The outbreak strain was found among isolates from food samples, collected in September and October 2015. Matching isolates were traced back to a meat processing company in eastern Austria. The outbreak strain was detectable at this unnamed company until May 2018.

Salmonella and E. coli outbreaks
Meanwhile, the number of people ill as part of a Salmonella outbreak solved earlier this year has gone up from 235 to 304.

Investigations by AGES found the source was caged eggs from a Polish producer. Ill people live in the federal states of Styria, Lower Austria, Vienna, Burgenland, Tyrol, Carinthia, Upper Austria, and Salzburg.

Since mid-June, people in Austria contracted the Salmonella Enteritidis strain with Multi Locus Variable-Number Tandem Repeat (MLVA) pattern 3-10-5-4-1.

Austrian authorities have also closed an investigation into a Salmonella Mikawasima outbreak without finding the source of infection.

In 2019, 13 cases in several federal states were confirmed by the National Reference Center for Salmonella at AGES. The increase pointed to a foodborne outbreak as Salmonella Mikawasima is rare in the country.

Officials in the country have also ended an investigation into an E. coli O157 outbreak.

Since April, 10 people contracted Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) and two had to be treated in hospital. The type of E. coli O157 had not previously been found in humans, animals or food.

Authorities said since no new illnesses have been recorded since late September the outbreak appears to have spontaneously disappeared. While the investigation has been closed if further infections occur in the future it will be reopened.

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