May 28, 2024

Protect Yourself Against Listeria Outbreak Linked to Deli Meat Cheese

A deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to unnamed deli meats and cheeses has sickened at least eight people in four states. All eight people were hospitalized. And, sadly, one person in Michigan died. Can you protect yourself and your family against this illness?

Protect Yourself Against Listeria Outbreak Linked to Deli Meats Cheese

This pathogen does not cause many outbreaks in the U.S., since it sickens about 2,600 people every year. Compared to Salmonella, which sickens 1,200,000 people every year in this country, it may seem like this pathogen isn’t as dangerous. But that perception is wrong. Listeria monocytogenes causes serious illness and death in this country every year.  In fact, Listeria infections are the third leading cause of death from food poisoning in the U.S.

One of the issues with this pathogen is that the population groups most affected are the very young, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with chronic illnesses. Those groups are more vulnerable to all types of infections, because of pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, and compromised immune systems.

The initial infection happens in the gut. Listeria cross the intestinal epithelium barrier and enter the blood and lymph nodes. Some of the bacterial cells are trapped in the liver, but when the immune system isn’t working properly, some can escape and pass the blood-brain barrier and the placental barrier.

When the pathogen invades the central nervous system, a complication called listeriosis occurs. It can cause meningitis, encephalitis, and symptoms that mimic strokes. For pregnant women, since their immune system is naturally suppressed, Listeria monocytogenes bacteria can hide and grow in the placenta, which further protects them from the immune system. When the bacteria reach a critical level, they emerge, and the body may reject the fetus as a threat, causing miscarriage and stillbirth.

Another issue with this pathogen is that there is such a long incubation period. Some people, most often pregnant women, do not get sick until 70 days after exposure to the bacteria. The pathogen can hide in host cells, which shields it from the immune system. That makes it very difficult for investigators to trace the source. It’s hard for people to remember what they ate last week, let alone two months ago.

So if anyone in your family falls into those vulnerable populations, there are ways to protect yourself and them.

  • Avoid purchasing deli meats, lunch meats, and hot dogs. If you want to serve those foods, reheat them until they reach 165°F, and check that temperature with a food thermometer.
  • Avoid refrigerated smoked seafoods.
  • Do not buy soft cheeses, especially cheese made from raw, or unpasteurized, milk. Avoid Brie, queso blanco, and Camembert. Avoid deli sliced and cut cheeses too.
  • Do not buy or serve raw milk or dairy products made with raw milk.
  • Follow food safety rules to the letter. Refrigerate food promptly, avoid cross-contamination between risky foods and foods that are eaten uncooked, and cook food to safe final internal temperatures.
  • Stay current on all recalls and outbreak information. Foods are recalled for potential Listeria contamination every week.

The symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes food poisoning include stiff neck, high fever, severe headache, confusion, nausea, and diarrhea. Pregnant women usually have a mild illness that mimics the flu. If you or anyone you know has eaten deli sliced meats and cheeses in the past and has been ill with these symptoms, see your doctor.

The law firm of Pritzker Hageman helps people sickened by contaminated food such as deli meats and cheeses protect their legal rights, and get compensation and justice. Our lawyers represent patients and the families of children sickened with bacterial infections in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against retailers, food producers, food processors, restaurants, schools, and others. Class action lawsuits may not be appropriate for outbreak victims because the cases are so unique.

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