-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- Soft cheese and raw produce
have caused many recent listeria outbreaks in the United States,
and at least 90 percent of cases typically occur among seniors,
pregnant women, newborns and people with weakened immune systems, a
new U.S. health report says.
Pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get this serious form
of food poisoning than others in the general population, and the
risk is 24 times higher among pregnant Hispanic women, according to
Vital Signsreport, released Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
People aged 65 and older are four times more likely to get
listeria infection than those in the general population, said the
CDC researchers who analyzed 2009-2011 data on listeria illness
rates and foods associated with listeria outbreaks.
"Listeria strikes hard at pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, sending many to the hospital and causing miscarriage or death in as many as one in five," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said in an agency news release.
"We need to develop new cutting-edge molecular technologies to help us link illnesses and outbreaks to foods faster to prevent illness and death, which is why the President's budget proposes investing in new tools to advance this work," Frieden added.
The findings highlight the need to educate people about how to
prevent listeria infections, the report stated.
More than 1,650 listeria illnesses were reported to the CDC
during the three-year study period, the report authors found.
About 20 percent of the infections caused a death, most of which
occurred among seniors or as miscarriages or stillbirths. Pregnant
women with listeria infections often have only mild symptoms or a
fever, but their infections can result in miscarriage, premature
labor and serious illness or death in their newborns, the report
Twelve listeria outbreaks sickened 224 people in 38 states over
the study period. These outbreaks included the large 2011 outbreak
linked to cantaloupes from one farm. Of the 10 outbreaks with an
identified food source, six were linked to soft cheese (mostly
Mexican-style cheeses) and two to raw produce (whole cantaloupe and
Improved technology and regulatory changes led to a 25 percent
drop in rates of listeria illness in the United States between the
1990s and early 2000s, largely because of changes affecting meat
and poultry. But declining rates have since leveled off, and this
report shows the need for additional measures to further reduce
consumers' risk of developing listeria illness from foods, the CDC
No one should drink unpasteurized milk or eat soft cheese made
from unpasteurized milk, and hot dogs should be cooked until
they're steaming hot, the CDC states. Also, proper cleaning,
storage and refrigeration can help prevent listeria outbreaks.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration outlines how to
keep listeria out of your kitchen.
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