One person died and another lost a pregnancy as a result of a listeria outbreak that has sickened over a dozen people across the country, with no definitive source identified other than deli meat and cheese, according to health officials.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Wednesday that six states had reported 16 confirmed listeria outbreak cases: seven in New York, three in Maryland, two in Illinois and Massachusetts, and one each in New Jersey and California. The first case was reported on April 17, 2021, and the most recent case on September 29, 2022.
Thirteen of the 16 cases required hospitalization. One death was reported in Maryland, and one sick person became ill during their pregnancy, resulting in pregnancy loss.
According to the CDC, the true number of sick people is likely higher because listeria illness can be recovered without medical care and the outbreak may not be limited to other states.
According to the CDC, local and state public health officials have been interviewing people about the foods they ate prior to becoming ill. Eleven of the twelve people interviewed said they had eaten meat or cheese from deli counters. Five of the seven people who became ill in New York purchased sliced deli meat or cheese from the international food grocery chain, NetCost Market.
However, health officials do not believe NetCost Market delis are the only source of the outbreak because a specific source has yet to be confirmed, and some of those who became ill did not shop at the grocery chain.
“Investigators are having difficulty identifying a single food as the source of outbreaks linked to deli meats and cheeses. This is due to the fact that Listeria spreads easily between food and the deli environment and can survive for long periods of time in deli display cases and on equipment “According to the CDC. “The outbreak strain of Listeria was most likely introduced into delis across multiple states by contaminated food.”
The CDC reports that listeria can cause severe illness in addition to a less serious intestinal illness that can cause diarrhea and vomiting but usually resolves itself without antibiotic treatment.
Symptoms usually appear two weeks after eating contaminated food, but they can appear the same day or up to ten weeks later. Pregnant women, newborns, and adults 65 and older are more vulnerable to severe illness, which can result in pregnancy loss or premature birth.
Health officials advise pregnant women, people over the age of 65, and people with weakened immune systems not to eat meat or cheese from any deli counter unless it has been reheated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
It is also recommended that people clean refrigerators, containers, and surfaces that may have come into contact with deli meat or cheese, as it can grow on foods stored inside refrigerators.
If you or someone you know is experiencing severe listeria symptoms, they should contact their healthcare provider.