Germ linked to dairy kills three in outbreak: CDC

Thu Oct 9, 2008 10:36am EDT

 

Source of Article:  http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE49857720081009?sp=true

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An outbreak of Listeria food poisoning from a Massachusetts dairy killed three elderly men, caused the stillbirth of a baby and the premature birth of a second baby, U.S. health officials reported on Thursday.

They said the outbreak, while rare, demonstrates how difficult it can be to even detect, let alone trace, foodborne illness. It also shows that local health officials must move swiftly even at the hint of an outbreak.

"Dairy A was a family owned and operated milk product pasteurizing, bottling, and processing facility located in central Massachusetts; the dairy had operated for nearly 50 years," the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its weekly report on death and disease.

The CDC does not identify businesses featured in its reports.

Investigation showed that an 87-year-old man who died at the end of 2007 was infected with a particular strain of Listeria.

DNA testing linked the death to four other cases going back to June of that year -- two other elderly men who died, a woman who had a healthy but premature baby, and another woman whose baby was stillborn.

All five had consumed milk from the dairy.

Listeria can kill the very young and very old and endanger pregnancies. In most healthy younger people, it causes fever and stomach distress but is not usually diagnosed because the patients rarely go to the doctor.

The CDC estimates that 2,500 people become seriously ill with listeriosis each year and 500 die in the United States.

An investigation determined that the dairy had been pasteurizing its milk products properly. The CDC said the milk likely had been contaminated after this process.

The dairy closed after the investigation.

"The findings from this outbreak underscore the importance of physical facility and equipment design and cross-contamination controls, particularly in older facilities that manufacture perishable, ready-to-eat foods that have a long shelf-life and that support the growth of L. monocytogenes under refrigeration," the report reads.

The CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been under pressure to do more to prevent foodborne illnesses after recent high-profile outbreaks, including hundreds of cases of Salmonella from April to June of this year linked to peppers imported from Mexico.

(Reporting by Maggie Fox; editing by Will Dunham and Mohammad Zargham)

 

 

 

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