The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have updated the listeriosis outbreak linked to commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples. As of December 22, 2014, 29 people in 10 states are sick. The new illness is someone in Wisconsin. All of the 29 people sickened in this outbreak have been hospitalized. There have been five deaths. No official recall has been issued, although some brands of caramel apples have been removed from store shelves.
The government recommends that U.S. consumers do not eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, including plain caramel apples as well as the fancier varieties that include nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings. These products have a shelf life of more than a month. Some of these products may still be in people’s homes.
The case count by state is as follows: Arizona (4), California (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3). Illness onset dates range from October 17, 2014, to November 27, 2014. Non-pregnant patient age ranges are from 7 to 92 years, with a median age of 66 years.
Of the five people who died, listeriosis contributed to three of those deaths and it’s unclear whether or not the illness contributed to a fourth. The fifth death was unrelated to listeriosis. Nine illnesses were pregnancy related (in a pregnant woman or newborn baby). Three invasive cases of Listeria meningitis have been reported among otherwise healthy children aged 5 to 15 years. To date, 87% of the 23 ill people interviewed ate commercially prepared, prepackaged caramel apples before becoming sick.
Investigators are trying to determine where the apples originated through traceback and epidemiological investigations. In Minnesota, the Department of Health states that Carnival and Kitchen Cravings brands may be associated with this outbreak. They are no longer available for sale in stores. Other brands may be involved in this outbreak as the investigation progresses.
If you ate prepackaged, commercially prepared caramel apples and have experienced the symptoms of listeriosis, the illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, see your doctor immediately. Those symptoms include muscle aches, fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, nausea, and vomiting. Pregnant women may only have a mild illness similar to the flu, but this infection can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or infection of the newborn baby. Symptoms begin 3 to 70 days after exposure. This long incubation time can lead to confusion in diagnosis, especially at first, so it’s important to remember about this outbreak linked to caramel apples.