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Possible Listeria outbreak under investigation by CDC

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Listeria can cause severe illness (known as invasive listeriosis) when the bacteria spread beyond the gut to other parts of the body.

The CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and state officials are investigating an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections that has sickened seven people in four states (Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Virginia).

All seven people have been hospitalized. Interviews with sick people indicate that Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses (like queso fresco) are a likely source of this outbreak.

Because Listeria can cause severe infections, CDC is advising people at higher risk for severe Listeria illness to not eat any Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses (like queso fresco) until more information is available. People who are not at higher risk of severe illness should make sure the Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses (like queso fresco) they eat have labels that say, “Made with pasteurized milk.”

This investigation is ongoing to determine a specific type or brand of Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheese that is making people sick.

People who are at higher risk for severe Listeria illness are pregnant women, 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.

The CDC advises that people skip eating any Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses (like queso fresco, queso blanco, and queso panela), until they identify a specific type or brand that is making people sick.

Call your healthcare provider right away if you are experiencing the following symptoms:

  • 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 headaches, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions, in addition to fever and muscle aches.

Symptoms of a severe illness usually start 1 to 4 weeks after eating food contaminated with Listeria but may start as early as the same day or as late as 70 days after.

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