LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is reminding pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems that they should avoid certain foods to reduce their risk of listeriosis.
Tracking cases from August to November of this year, Public Health reports 17 residents with listeriosis, an increase from nine residents last year during this same time period. Of the 17 cases, seven are pregnant women including five of Hispanic descent. This is an increase from only one case last year during the same time period. So far this year, there have been two stillbirths among the infected pregnant women.
None of the cases are apparently linked to each other or to one specific food item, however at least four of the pregnant women reported eating soft or Mexican-style cheeses that are often made from non-pasteurized milk. In total, eight of the 17 cases reported eating at-risk foods that are listed at the end of this advisory.
Listeriosis is a serious infection that is caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease primarily affects adults with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and newborns. Symptoms include a fever, muscle aches, and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur.
Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth, premature delivery, or infection of the newborn. Listeriosis can be diagnosed with simple tests and is a treatable illness, but if not treated early, it can cause stillbirths, premature births, and can threaten the life of immunocompromised individuals. In addition to routine general recommendations to avoid foodborne disease, people in these groups can reduce their risk for listeriosis by:
-Avoiding eating hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats unless they are reheated until steaming hot and avoid getting fluid from such products on other foods, utensils and food preparation surfaces.
-Avoiding eating soft cheeses such as feta, brie, and Camembert, blue-veined cheeses or Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco, queso fresco and Panela, unless they have labels that state they are from pasteurized milk.
-Avoiding eating refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads. Canned or shelf-stable pâtés and meat spreads may be eaten.
-Avoiding eating refrigerated smoked seafood, unless it is cooked, such as a casserole. Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna or mackerel, is most often labeled as "nova-style," "lox," "kippered," "smoked," or "jerky." The fish is found in the refrigerator section or sold at deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens. Canned or shelf-stable smoked seafood may be eaten.
Public Health is conducting health education outreach to health care providers that work with pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of listeriosis contact the Los Angeles County Information Line 211.
More detailed information about Listeria in both English and Spanish can be found at the CDC Website: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/listeriosis_g.htm
The Department of Public Health (DPH) is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, DPH overseas environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 3,800 employees and an annual budget exceeding $650 million.