Sliced turkey deli meat may be harboring the strain of Listeria responsible for an outbreak of listeriosis in the northeastern United States that began this summer and is continuing into the fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
As a precaution, the CDC has issued a health alert warning at-risk individuals--including elderly people, pregnant women, newborns, and persons with compromised immune systems--either to avoid food from deli counters or to thoroughly heat deli meats before eating them.
To date, 44 people in seven states have become ill from the same strain of the food-borne bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, including 14 patients in Pennsylvania, 14 in New York, 4 in New Jersey, 4 in Delaware, 2 in Maryland, and 1 each in Connecticut and Michigan, the CDC says.
The outbreak has led to seven deaths and three miscarriages or stillbirths in pregnant woman, the CDC reported.
Although deli turkey is the leading suspect food based on collected data analyses, federal, state, and local health officials have yet to identify the brand or brands of the product involved or its origin.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service's continuing investigation into the cause of a Northeast outbreak of L. monocytogenes resulted in detection of the bacteria in a facility owned by Pilgrim's Pride Corp., doing business as Wampler Foods Inc. in Franconia, Pa. The strain found in a product sample taken at the facility that tested positive for L. monocytogenes does not match the strain common to outbreak victims.
Nonetheless, the company is voluntarily recalling approximately 27.4 million pounds of fresh and frozen ready-to-eat turkey and chicken products that may be contaminated with L. monocytogenes, the USDA announced in early October.
Initial symptoms of the food-borne bacterial infection mimic those of the flu in healthy persons and can include fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal disturbances--such as nausea and diarrhea.
Immunocompromised adults and newborns are particularly susceptible to more serious consequences, including sepsis and meningoencephalitis. Signs that the infection has spread to the nervous system include such symptoms as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions.
In pregnancy, Listeria infections can lead to miscarriages, stillbirths, and neonatal transmission. There is no routine screening test for susceptibility to listeriosis during pregnancy, as there is for rubella and some other congenital infections. Symptoms such as fever or stiff neck should prompt a blood or spinal fluid test to determine if the patient has listeriosis.
When infection occurs during pregnancy, antibiotics given promptly to the pregnant woman can often prevent infection of the fetus or newborn.
Healthy adults and children occasionally get infected with Listeria, but they rarely become seriously ill.
At-risk individuals should also be aware of the following recommendations:
* Heat hot dogs until steaming before eating.
* Avoid cross contaminating other foods and food preparation tools and surfaces with liquid from hot dog packages, and wash hands after handling hot dogs.
* Avoid refrigerated pates and raw or undercooked seafood.
* Avoid soft cheeses, including feta, Brie, Camembert, and blue-veined and Mexican-style cheeses.
For questions about Listeria, visit the CDC Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/listeriosis_g.htm.
COPYRIGHT 2002 International Medical News Group
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group