Western Washington health officials are investigating an outbreak of deadly listeria. This pathogen is often spread by contaminated foods.
According to a Tacoma Pierce County Health Department news release, five patients have been admitted for listeriosis. They are all in their 60s or 70s and already have weakened immune systems. Three of the five people have died.
Listeria monocytogenes is the bacteria that causes Listeriosis, a fatal disease. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people get infected after eating food that is contaminated with Listeria.
One to four weeks following the consumption of contaminated food, infected individuals usually begin reporting symptoms, such as diarrhea, fever, muscle aches and seizures. According to the CDC, in some cases symptoms may appear as soon as the next day or up to 70 days after the exposure.
In conjunction with the Washington State Department of Health and regional health departments of Tacoma-Pierce County and Thurston county, interviews are being conducted to identify any exposures that may be common among patients or their close contacts.
Investigators sequenced the genes of bacteria from infected patients to determine that the five cases were likely caused by the same food and that the infected people fell ill between February 27th and June 30th. Washington State Department of Health reports that officials are still unable to determine the source.
According to the CDC, the disease is most common in pregnant women, infants, older people, and those with weakened immunity systems, such as those who were affected by the Washington outbreak. Washington State still has 10-25 listeriosis cases per year, despite the fact that it's uncommon for other groups.
The CDC reports that each year in the United States, approximately 1,600 people become ill from listeriosis, and 260 of them die. Antibiotics are used to treat the disease.
The CDC advises people to avoid unpasteurized and unheated foods, as they are more likely contaminated by the Listeria germ. Unpasteurized cheeses like queso fresco or brie, unheated meats and salads and raw milk are all examples.