July 6, 2020

History of Listeria Outbreaks Sickening Pregnant Women

The Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to imported Enoki mushrooms that was just announced has sickened six pregnant women; two of them suffered fetal loss. This is not the first time this has happened; pregnant women are at high risk for serious complications from this infection. Here’s a brief history of Listeria outbreaks sickening pregnant women since 2012.

  1. In 2012, a Listeria outbreak linked to Frescolina Marte brand ricotta salata sickened 22 people in 13 states; 20 people were hospitalized and four died; two of these deaths were related to listeriosis. Nine of these illnesses were related to a pregnancy; three newborns were diagnosed with listeriosis. One fetal loss was reported.
  2. The listeriosis outbreak linked to Jensen Farms cantaloupe sickened 147 people. Seven pregnant women were sickened. One woman suffered a miscarriage, and three infants were born with listeriosis.
  3. In 2013, a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to Crave Brothers Farmstead cheeses sickened one pregnant woman, who suffered a miscarriage.
  4. In 2014, a deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak was linked to Bidart Brothers commercially prepared caramel apples. Thirty five people were sickened in this outbreak. Thirty four of those patients were hospitalized. Listeriosis contributed to at least three of the seven deaths reported. Eleven of these illnesses were pregnancy-related, and one woman lost her fetus. As it turns out, inserting the stick into the apples introduced Listeria bacteria into the apple flesh.
  5. Also in 2014, a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to Oasis brand cheese sickened five people in four states. One person died. Three of these cases were related to a pregnancy, and one newborn baby was born with the infection.
  6. In 2014, a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to Roos Foods dairy products sickened eight people in 2 states. Five of the illnesses were related to pregnancy, including 2 mother-newborn pairs and a newborn.
  7. In 2015, a deadly listeriosis outbreak linked to soft cheeses by Karoun Dairies sickened 30 people in 10 states; 28 people were hospitalized. Six illnesses were pregnancy related. One pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage.
  8. In 2016, a listeriosis outbreak linked to recalled Dole packaged salads sickened 19 people. One illness was in a pregnant woman.
  9. In 2017, another deadly listeriosis outbreak linked to recalled Vulto Creamery raw milk cheeses sickened 8 people in 4 states. Two people died. One illness was reported in a newborn.
  10. Earlier this year, a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to recalled Almark Foods hard boiled eggs sickened 8 people and hospitalized five; one person living in Texas died. One pregnant women was sickened. Her newborn was born infected, and thankfully survived.
  11. The new listeriosis outbreak linked to imported Sun Hong Foods enoki mushrooms has sickened 36 people. Six of those patients are pregnant women. And two of those women suffered miscarriage or stillbirth.

As you can see, dairy products are the most common source of Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks, which is why pregnant women are advised to avoid raw milk, raw milk cheeses, and soft cheeses. But this pathogen can contaminate any food, and has, including eggs, apples, mushrooms, cooked chicken, frozen foods, vegetables, hummus, and salad.

So how do pregnant women protect themselves? First, know which foods experts recommend you avoid. including cold cuts, deli meats, hot dogs, raw sprouts, refrigerated smoked seafood products, refrigerated pate and meat spreads, and of course raw milk and raw cider products. These foods can be consumed if heated to 160°F.

Pay attention to food recalls. And know the symptoms of listeriosis in pregnant women, which are different from symptoms in non pregnant people: feeling like you have a mild case of the flu. If you do feel sick, contact your doctor. This illness can be successfully treated with antibiotics.

History of Listeria Outbreaks Sickening Pregnant Women

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