Three Dead in Mysterious Listeria Outbreak in Puget Sound
A deadly Listeria Monocytogenes outbreak in Western Washington has sickened five patients, and of those, has killed three. According to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, they are moving as fast as possible to identify the source, in order to prevent any other illnesses.
Health officials are also working with the Washington State Health Department, Thurston County Public Health, and the Social Services Department in investigating this outbreak.
Thus far, it has been determined that all five patients became ill from February 27th to June 30th, and all affected (confirmed through genetic fingerprinting results by the Health Department) by the same, unidentified source. All patients have also been identified as being over the age of 60 and immunocompromised, leaving their situations much more precarious. Four patients who became ill live in Pierce County, while one in Thurston.
Health officials are currently interviewing both the patients and their families, in order to get a better idea of what, exactly, has sickened these people. According to the Tacoma-Pierce Health Department, “the state of Washington generally logs 10 to 25 cases of Listeria annually.”
Listeriosis is a deadly illness caused by consuming either contaminated food or beverage. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 1,600 cases identified per year, and of those, approximately 200 die.
Most recent outbreaks of Listeria have involved deli meats and cheeses, leafy greens, and ice cream. In all three of these outbreaks, over a dozen people have been sickened, and almost all of them subsequently hospitalized. Listeria can be a very dangerous illness, much more so than the vast majority of the run-of-the-mill foodborne illness.
Groups of people who are even more susceptible to this kind of illness are elderly adults, young children, those who are immunocompromised, and pregnant women. This is especially true for pregnant women, as Listeriosis is able to enter the barrier in the mother’s stomach that normally protects the baby, and subsequently do irreparable damage. Listeriosis can cause a serious infection in the baby’s brain or blood, causing either a miscarriage (in earlier trimesters), or the baby to be born a stillborn.
It can also cause a baby to be born with serious defects, including, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “intellectual disability, paralysis, seizures, blindness, or problems with the brain, kidneys, or heart.”
This being true, it is incredibly important everyone, especially those carrying a child, to know the signs and symptoms of Listeria. The most common symptoms include, according to the CDC, fever, flu-like symptoms, stiff neck, confusion, and a headache. Although in pregnant people the symptoms are either much more mild or practically undetectable, leaving it both much more difficult to identify, and much more serious for the unborn child.
It is vital that if someone, especially if they are pregnant, begins to experience these symptoms that they see their local health provider immediately.