Washington State health officials have confirmed a listeria outbreak that has caused three deaths and two hospitalizations in the Puget Sound area. The outbreak is believed to have been caused by an unidentified food source. All five patients infected were over 60 years old and had compromised immune systems. The Washington State Department of Health is working with local health jurisdictions to identify any common exposures.
Possible Sources of Listeria
Listeria bacteria are commonly found in unheated cheeses, deli meats, unpasteurized dairy products, and premade deli salads like potato or tuna salads. Health officials have cautioned the public to ensure that these foods are properly cooked and stored.
Symptoms of Listeriosis
Listeriosis, caused by the bacteria listeria, can cause flu-like symptoms that typically manifest within two weeks of consuming contaminated food. Severe cases can lead to miscarriage and other complications, especially in pregnant individuals, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
Preventing Listeria Infection
To prevent listeria infection, it is essential to follow food safety guidelines when preparing and storing food. Some practical tips include:
- Wash hands and surfaces often
- Cook food to the proper temperature
- Store food at the right temperature
- Avoid consuming unpasteurized dairy products
- Avoid consuming raw or undercooked meat and seafood
- Clean fruits and vegetables thoroughly
Listeria outbreaks can be deadly, especially for vulnerable populations. It is crucial to take the necessary precautions to prevent infection and to seek medical attention if symptoms appear. By following food safety guidelines, we can reduce the risk of listeria and other foodborne illnesses.