A laboratory technician starts checking for listeria. Photo by Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile/Wikimedia Commons
July 1 (UPI) -- At least 23 people in 10 states have been sickened and one of them has died in a listeria outbreak may have originated in Florida, U.S. health officials reported.
Although the cause of the outbreak remains a mystery, nearly all of the patients either live in Florida or had traveled to the state about a month before they got sick, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.
Twenty patients reported living in or traveling to Florida in the month before they got sick. The first cases were reported in January, with the latest cases being reported in June, the CDC said.
One of those infected died in Illinois, while 22 were hospitalized. Five women became sick during their pregnancies and one experienced a pregnancy loss.
The true tally in the outbreak is likely higher because it typically takes three to four weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak, so more recent cases may still be coming, the CDC said.
Listeria outbreaks are often linked to dairy products and produce, but investigators have traced recent outbreaks to soft cheeses, celery, sprouts, cantaloupe and ice cream, the CDC said.
People who have symptoms of Listeria infection should contact their healthcare provider, especially individuals who have traveled to Florida, the CDC said, and health care providers should report these illnesses to their local health department.
The disease can be treated with antibiotics, but pregnant women and newborns, adults aged 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems are all at higher risk for severe infection, according to the agency.
When the bacteria spread beyond the gut, a condition known as invasive listeriosis, it can cause severe illness, the CDC explained. Symptoms of severe illness typically start within two weeks of eating a contaminated food, but they can surface the same day or even 70 days later.
People who are not pregnant may have a headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, fever, muscle aches and convulsions. Pregnant women typically experience only fever, fatigue and muscle aches, though the infection can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn, the CDC said.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has more on listeria.
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