At least 11 people in Switzerland have been infected by Listeria and two have died after eating contaminated cheese.

Officials from the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) told Food Safety News that analysis is pending for a further 10 infections to see if they belong to the outbreak cluster. A total of 28 cases of listeriosis have been reported in the country since early this year.

Of the 11 confirmed outbreak cases, five are men and six are women aged 66 to 86 years old. Infections have occurred in seven cantons, or regions, of the country.

The first patient related to the outbreak cluster showed symptoms at the end of January. In the most recent related infection reported to date, symptoms began in mid-April.

Business closed
Käserei Vogel AG, based in Steinerberg, found Listeria in semi-hard cheese and its production site earlier this month. The company issued a recall, told authorities and informed its buyers to remove the products from shelves.

Jacques Gygax, director of Fromarte, the Association of Swiss Cheese Specialists, told the 20 Minuten newspaper that the cheesemaker had been planning to retire but has now decided to close the business early. The website of the company is offline with a message saying it is under construction.

Cheese was made from pasteurized milk. It can be identified as products marked with CH 5707 in an oval circle. It comes from Käserei Vogel.

More than 25 items sold across Switzerland have been recalled by the company. Distribution also included Belgium and Germany.

The Center Hospitalier du Valais Romand (CHVR) previously revealed that from March 30 to May 2, four patients were diagnosed with an invasive listeriosis infections. These people could have contracted illness from eating Käserei Vogel cheeses during their stay.

Infected patients did consume cheese during their hospitalization but it is not clear if it was any of the recalled cheeses. Three people recovered but one person with underlying health conditions died.

About Listeria infections
Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still cause serious and sometimes life-threatening infections. Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled products and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical treatment and tell their doctors about the possible Listeria exposure.

Also, anyone who has eaten any of the recalled product should monitor themselves for symptoms during the coming weeks because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop.

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache and neck stiffness. Specific laboratory tests are required to diagnose Listeria infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and people such as cancer patients who have weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illnesses, life-threatening infections and other complications. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, their infections can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn or even stillbirth.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)