April 26, 2018

Listeria In Blue Bell Ice Cream Kills 3 Sickens 2 More at Via Christi Hospital in Wichita

A Listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell ice cream served to patients at Via Christi Hospital in Wichita has killed three people and sickened two others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Between January 2014 and January 2015, five patients hospitalized for unrelated causes all contracted listeriosis. Four of those sickened were able to provide a food history and all of them reported having milkshakes made with Blue Bell “Scoops,” a single serving product, while they were in the hospital.

blue bell listeria ice cream

Blue Bell Scoops

Cultures from those patients were positive for four strains of Listeria. Tests on Blue Bell ice cream obtained in South Carolina and Texas in 2015 yielded three strains that matched those isolated from patients.

The Blue Bell ice cream products that should not be eaten due to Listeria risk are: Scoops, Chocolate Chip Country Cookie Sandwiches, Great Divide Bars, Sour Pop Green Apple Bar, Cotton Candy Bar, Vanilla Stick Slices and Almond Bars.

Blue Bell posted a message on its website saying: “One of our machines produced a limited amount of frozen snacks with a potential listeria problem. When this was detected all products produced by this machine were withdrawn.  Our Blue Bell team members recovered all involved products in stores and storage.This withdrawal in no way includes our half gallons, quarts, pints, cups, three gallon ice cream or take-home frozen snack novelties.”

Health officials are concerned that some consumers, retailers or institutional customers may still have these products in their freezers as they have a shelf life of up to two years.

Symptoms of a Listeria infection, which can take as long as 70 days to develop, include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, loss of balance and confusion. These symptoms may be preceded by gastrointestinal symptoms. Among pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriages and stillbirths. Others at high risk include young children, those with compromised immune systems and seniors.

In this outbreak, all five patients are seniors. Three of them are female.

A woman in her late 60s from the Wichita area who was hospitalized at Via Christi with listeriosis from contaminated cantaloupe four years ago developed Listeria meningitis, said Brendan Flaherty, an attorney with the food safety law firm PritzkerOlsen that represented her. Listeria meningitis is a severe form of meningitis that can be fatal or lead to permanent disability. Complications include seizures, brain abscess, brain stem damage and spinal injury.

This outbreak actually began more than a year ago when the first case was reported in January 2014, the next in March 2014, then two more in October 2014 and one in January 2015.  Although the first case was reported more than a year ago, the outbreak was not identified until this month when health officials noticed that two people sickened by the the same strain of Listeria had been patients at the same hospital.

Listeriosis strikes 1,600 Americans each year. Between 15 and 25 percent of cases are fatal.  In the cantaloupe Listeria outbreak of 2011, 147 people were sickened and 33 died.. In the caramel apple Listeria outbreak announced in December 2014, 35 people were sickened and seven people died.

 

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