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Listeria outbreak in Washington state leaves at least 3 dead

The State Department of Health reported that the source is being investigated.

Micrografía electrónica de una bacteria Listeria monocytogenes

(Wikimedia Commons)

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The Washington State Department of Health reported a listeria outbreak that has already affected five people who required hospitalization and three have died.

In the communiqué, the department explained that an investigation is being conducted in conjunction with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and Thurston County Public Health and Social Services after identifying five cases of listeriosis, four in Pierce County and one in Thurston.

So far, it is known that the five infected individuals were all over 60 years of age, all with compromised immune systems, and based on genetic fingerprinting results, the source of infection likely was the same. However, whether the disease was contracted from a common food has not yet been identified.

The department "is working with Pierce and Thurston County local health jurisdictions to gather information from interviews with patients and their families to help identify any common exposures," the department stated.

The release notes that, although there is no specific advice for consumers, listeria bacteria can be easily killed by heating food to high temperatures (165°F).

The department reminded residents that listeria is found in the environment and can grow when food is kept in the refrigerator for several days. The report also points out that some people may be more affected by the bacteria, such as people over 65, those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women.

"Symptoms usually start within 2 weeks after eating food contaminated with listeria monocytogenes but may start as early as the same day or as late as 10 weeks after exposure," the department said, recalling that symptoms include muscle aches, nausea, fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea.