May 21, 2024

Deadly Listeria Monocytogenes Outbreak Linked to Deli Meats and Cheeses

A deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to deli sliced meats and cheeses has just been announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Eight people are sick in four states; one person who lived in Michigan has died. All eight patients have been hospitalized because their illnesses are so serious.

Deli meats cheese Listeria monocytogenes outbreak

The patient case count by state is: Michigan (2), New Jersey (1), New York (2), and Pennsylvania (3). Illness onset dates range from November 13, 2016 to March 4, 2019. The patient age range is from 40 to 88 years.

It’s unusual that illnesses that occurred more than 2 years ago are only now being announced in an outbreak, but this has happened before in Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks; most notably in the Blue Bell ice cream outbreak. Investigators use PulseNet, a national laboratory, where isolates taken from patients are stored, to identify outbreaks and to find people who are connected to outbreaks. Whole genome sequencing, which identifies the DNA of the pathogens, was performed on isolates from patients in this outbreak. WGS showed that all of the isolates are closely related genetically, which means the pathogen likely came from the same source.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence collected by public health officials has found that meats and cheeses sliced at deli counters may be contaminated with Listeria. In interviews, patients sickened in this outbreak said they ate different types and brands of meats and cheeses purchased from and sliced at deli counters in many different retail locations.  The outbreak strain was found in samples taken from meat sliced at a deli, and from deli counters in retail locations in New York and Rhode Island.

Attorney Fred Pritzker

Attorney Fred Pritzker, who has represented many clients sickened with listeriosis in lawsuits, said, “There’s a reason there’s zero tolerance for this pathogen in ready-to-eat foods. This infection is devastating.” Call 1-888-377-8900 for help.

Food safety attorney Fred Pritzker said, “Issues with Listeria contamination and delis have been identified for years; in fact, pregnant women are advised to avoid these products because of this issue. And there have been dozens of recalls of deli products for possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination over the years.”

Another issue with this specific pathogen is that studies have shown Listeria monocytogenes can be very persistent in certain environments and is difficult to eradicate. One study showed that Listeria survives standard cleaning procedures used by retail delis.

No single, common supplier of deli products has been identified. The government has not named any deli or meat and cheese suppliers that may be associated with this deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak. And there is “limited information” about the brands of meat and cheese that ill persons purchased.

The outbreak notice states that people who are higher risk for a Listeria infection should not eat lunch meats, cold cuts, or other deli meats unless they are heated to 165°F before serving to kill pathogens. Those at higher risk include pregnant women, children, the elderly, and anyone with a chronic illness or compromised immune system.

The symptoms of listeriosis can take up to 70 days to appear after infection. Symptoms include high fever, stiff neck, severe headache, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea. Symptoms for pregnant women are a bit different. Most pregnant women feel like they have the flu and symptoms may be mild. But listeriosis can cause stillbirth, miscarriage, preterm labor, and infection in the newborn. If you have been experiencing these symptoms, see your doctor. You may be part of this deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak.

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