Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), public health and regulatory officials in several states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) start to collecting different types of data to investigate a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections.
“Epidemiologic data show that Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses may be contaminated with Listeria and may be making people sick. A specific type or brand of Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheese has not yet been identified,” – CDC said.
Listeria Outbreak Epidemiologic Data
As of February 11, 2021, seven people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from four states. Illnesses started on dates ranging from October 20, 2020, to January 22, 2021, with six recent illnesses in 2021.
The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses. This is because some people recover without medical care and are not tested for Listeria. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 2 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak.
Sick people range in age from 45 to 75 years, with a median age of 61. Six people are Hispanic, and 43% are female. All seven people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
“State and local public health officials are interviewing people about the foods they ate in the month before they got sick. Of the four people interviewed, three reported eating at least one type of Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses and all three reported eating queso fresco. Public health officials are continuing to interview sick people to try to identify a specific type or brand of cheese,” – was reported in the article.
What to Do, if You at High Risk Group?
You are at higher risk for severe Listeria illness if you are pregnant, aged 65 or older, or have a weakened immune system due to certain medical conditions or treatments. If you are not in these groups, you are unlikely to get very sick from Listeria.
Call your healthcare provider right away if you have these symptoms after eating Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses:
- Pregnant people typically experience only fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. However, Listeria infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
- People who are not pregnant may experience headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions, in addition to fever and muscle aches.
“Be aware that Hispanic-style soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk have caused Listeria outbreaks. Although pasteurization of milk kills Listeria, products made from pasteurized milk can still become contaminated if they are produced in facilities with unsanitary conditions,” – CDC warns.