Listeria outbreak in California, 5 other states related to cured meats and cheese

(CNN) — A deadly outbreak of listeria in California and 5 other states has been linked to contamination deli meats and cheeses, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.

People at high risk of serious illness from Listeria infection — such as pregnant women, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems — shouldn’t eat meat or cheese from a deli counter without first heating it “steaming hot,” the agency suggests.

A total of 16 people have been infected and 13 have been hospitalized, according to reports from six states. One death was reported in Maryland; Another person became ill during pregnancy and lost their baby, the CDC said in a statement.

So far, seven Listeria infections have been reported in New York, three in Maryland, two in Illinois, two in Massachusetts, one in California and one in New Jersey. Those infected ranged in age from 38 to 92, with an average age of 74. More than half of those infected were men.

Most of those identified so far in the outbreak are of Eastern European descent or speak Russian, the CDC said, adding that the agency is still investigating reasons why the outbreak appears to be disproportionately affecting this demographic.

However, some infected People who fell ill could have recovered without medical attention and hence their cases went unreported. “The actual number of cases in this outbreak is likely higher than the reported number, and the outbreak may not be limited to states with known diseases,” the CDC added.

When interviewing the sufferers, CDC investigators found that five of the seven people in New York bought sliced ​​sausage or cheese from at least one location of NetCost Market, a chain of stores that sells international groceries. But that’s not the only location of the disease, the CDC said, as people who have had the disease in other states have reported buying meat or cheese from other delis.

Deli counters and food processing plants can be a common source of listeria infections, the CDC said, because listeria can easily spread between food and equipment or surfaces and is difficult to remove.

If you’ve bought deli cheese or meat, the agency recommends a thorough cleaning of your fridge — and any containers or surfaces the meat or cheese may have touched — with hot, soapy water.

“Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms of severe Listeria disease after eating meat or cheese from a deli,” the CDC said.

Listeria symptoms usually appear within four weeks of infection, but can take up to 70 days to appear. In some cases, the first sign of infection is diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Typical subsequent symptoms are headache, stiff neck, fever, muscle pain, confusion, balance disorders and cramps.

Who is most at risk

Listeria is the third leading cause of death from foodborne illness in the United States, according to the CDC, and is especially dangerous for people over the age of 65, with a compromised immune system, or pregnant.

Pregnant women are particularly at risk. According to the CDC, you’re 10 times more likely to get Listeria infection, and the odds are even higher for Hispanic pregnant women, who are 24 times more likely to get Listeria.

Pregnant women usually only have flu-like symptoms The risk to a developing fetus is high. Infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, premature birth or stillbirth. Newborns with Listeria infection can develop blood infections, meningitis, and other serious and potentially life-threatening complications.

Listeria infection is treated with antibiotics.