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Ten people in three states have become infected with listeria monocytogenes, apparently after eating deli meat, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday. All were hospitalized, and one person has died.
No brand, retailer, or supplier has been identified yet, but all of the nine people health officials interviewed reported eating Italian-style meats, such as salami, mortadella, or prosciutto. The meats were both prepackaged and purchased from deli counters.
The illnesses occurred in Florida, Massachusetts, and New York.
Deli meat is just one food associated with outbreaks of listeriosis, the illness caused by the listeria bacteria, in recent years. Other outbreaks have involved soft cheeses, ice cream, and frozen vegetables. "Unlike some other types of bacteria that cause foodborne illness, it can continue to grow at refrigerator temperatures," says James E. Rogers, Ph.D., director of food safety testing and research at Consumer Reports.
Listeriosis can cause fever along with diarrhea, muscle aches, or other gastrointestinal symptoms, and headache. If the infection spreads to the nervous system, people may also experience a stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. The symptoms can appear one day to four weeks after eating a food that contains the bacteria.
The very old or young, and people with compromised immune systems, are more vulnerable to listeriosis. So are pregnant women, because the illness can cause miscarriage and stillbirth. The CDC says that people in those high-risk groups should avoid deli meat entirely.
CR will update this article as more information becomes available. In the meantime, Rogers advises that you may want to avoid Italian-style cold cuts, especially if you live in one of the states currently involved in the outbreak.