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Marylander died, two others were sickened last year in ongoing listeria outbreak linked to deli meat and cheese

This 2002 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a Listeria monocytogenes bacterium, responsible for the food-borne illness listeriosis. On Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, U.S. health officials said at least one death and a pregnancy loss are tied to an outbreak of listeria food poisoning associated with sliced deli meats and cheeses that has sickened 16 people in six states, including 13 who were hospitalized.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to investigate an outbreak of listeria that infected three people in Maryland in October 2021, including one who died.

Health officials are still investigating an outbreak of the illness caused by eating food contaminated with bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, which the CDC estimates to be the third-leading cause of food poisoning in the United States.

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Across six states, at least 16 people became sick in an outbreak that has hospitalized 13 patients, caused one to lose a pregnancy and killed a Maryland resident. All three of the Maryland cases date back to October 2021, said Chase Cook, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Health.

No new related listeria cases have been found in Maryland since 2021, Cook said in a statement. The state health department continues to monitor the issue.

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The CDC warned Wednesday that more people were likely infected, as most people recover without seeking treatment and being tested. The current counts might also exclude people who became sick recently because it takes up to a month for officials to determine whether someone was part of an outbreak.

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Data collected between April 2021 and September 2022 by state officials, the CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has shown that meat and cheese from deli counters made people ill. Specific products or delis where the contamination originated have not yet been identified, but it is likely that a food product introduced the bacteria into delis in different states.

The CDC advises people at a higher risk of severe listeria illness — a group that includes pregnant people, adults 65 or older and anyone with a weakened immune system — to avoid eating meat or cheese from a deli counter unless “steaming hot” or reheated to 165 degrees. The agency also says people should clean their refrigerators, containers and any surfaces that might have touched meat or cheese from a deli.

Although many people might experience only mild food poisoning symptoms after being infected with listeria, some might develop severe illness, when the infection spreads beyond the gut to other body parts.

Most cases of severe illness require hospitalization, the CDC says. Every year, about 260 people die from listeria and about 1,600 fall ill.

Anyone who displays symptoms of severe listeria illness after eating deli meat or cheese should call a health care provider immediately, the CDC advises.

Symptoms for people who are not pregnant include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, convulsions, fever and muscle aches, while pregnant people might experience only fever, fatigue and muscle aches. Listeria poses a threat to newborns and can cause pregnancy loss or premature birth.

In cases of severe illness, symptoms typically begin two weeks after eating listeria-contaminated food, but they could begin as soon as the same day or as late as 10 weeks after exposure.

For the record

A previous version of this story incorrectly implied that the Maryland listeria cases occurred this year. The Sun regrets the error.


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