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1 Dead, 22 Hospitalized in Mysterious Listeria Outbreak

A multi-state listeria outbreak with origins in Florida has caused one death and 22 hospitalizations, health officials confirmed Friday.

Listeria is a foodborne illness caused by the bacteria L. monocytogenes. Signs and symptoms of the infection vary depending on the person infected, but fever and flu-like body aches typically accompany all cases. Pregnant women, infants, and the elderly face the greatest risk of serious illness or death from listeria.

The current outbreak spread to at least 10 different states; but nearly all of the affected patients either lived in Florida or recently traveled to the state.

The CDC also said that it doesn’t know which food, specifically, caused this most recent outbreak. Many of the foods that the CDC deems “high risk” listeria foods are the same kinds of foods they warn pregnant women to avoid: raw milk, sprouts, deli meats, raw cheeses, etc.

“A specific food item has not yet been identified as the source of this outbreak,” the CDC notice begins. “Most of the sick people in this outbreak live in or traveled to Florida about a month before they got sick. Listeria symptoms usually start within 2 weeks after eating contaminated food. If you are at higher risk for infection and have symptoms, especially if you recently traveled to Florida, talk to your healthcare provider.”

The listeria outbreak will be difficult to trace for officials

The cases were reported from January 2021 and June 2022 in people ranging from the age of 1 to 92 years old, according to the agency.

The CDC also said that it expects the number of cases to rise, and that some cases will go undiagnosed.

“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,” the agency said. “In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak.”

To make matters more difficult, some listeria patients often do not experience symptoms for two months or more; a situation which makes food attribution almost impossible.

The other states involved in the outbreak are Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

To help find the source of the outbreak, the CDC is asking those who believe they may be infected to write down as much as they can about what they ate the month before getting sick.

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