A mysterious listeria outbreak across the United States has left health officials trying to find the reasons for the outbreak.
So far, no specific food product has been identified as the source of the outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received several recent reports of illness, giving cause for concern.
Listeria monocytogenes is a species of pathogenic bacteria that can bring about the serious infection of listeriosis. Symptoms are often similar to those of common food poisoning.
According to the CDC, approximately 1,600 people get infected with the bacterium each year. High-risk groups include pregnant women and newborns, as well as elderly adults and those who suffer from weakened immune systems or auto-immune disorders.
A condition called invasive listeriosis occurs when the bacteria disseminate past the gut to other areas of the body. People usually experience symptoms within two weeks after eating food contaminated with the pathogen.
During pregnancy, infection may lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn, while in almost 5 percent of cases for other groups, the infection can prove fatal.
Common symptoms in those who are not pregnant include fever and flu-like symptoms such as headaches, aches and muscle fatigue, as well as stiff neck, loss of coordination and balance, and seizures.
Currently, outbreaks have been observed throughout the country, with Michigan having the highest number of reported cases.
To date, 10 people with the symptoms have been hospitalized. The ages of those affected range from 47 to 88 years, with a distinctive majority being female, according to an article published by The Hill.
According to the CDC, in some cases, the onset of symptoms can occur earlier than two weeks after eating contaminated food, even on the same day—or as late as 10 weeks after. The most recent outbreak had reported illnesses as far back as July 2018, The Hill reported.
It usually takes several weeks to determine whether a sick person is connected to an outbreak. The actual number of infected people in the current cycle is likely greater than reported, as some are not tested or recover without receiving medical attention.
No source has yet been identified. Health officials on state and local levels are conducting interviews to determine the foods affected individuals consumed in the month prior to becoming ill.
A national database of DNA fingerprints of bacteria—known as PulseNet—is also being utilized by officials, the CDC said. The method aids in identifying illnesses relating to the current outbreak. It was previously used to pin down the origin of a salmonella outbreak involving Jif peanut butter, as reported by the Hill.
The investigation revealed a link between the genetic makeup of bacteria in sick people, indicating that the infection likely stemmed from the same food product.
The probe into the cause of infections is still ongoing, with different types of data being collected and analyzed.
People are urged to contact a medical professional should symptoms arise, pending further outcome of the investigation, according to the CDC. Any illnesses relating to possible listeria infections should be reported to the respective health department.
Those who are affected and are experiencing symptoms may be contacted by local or state health officials. In order to ascertain what food was consumed in the month before the onset of symptoms, officials may request copies of receipts and shopper cart numbers. Any leftover food may also be taken in for analysis.