Vital Signs: Listeria Illnesses, Deaths, and Outbreaks – United States, 2009 – 2011

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on June 18, 2013

Listeria monocytogenes infection (listeriosis), recognized as a foodborne illness in the 1980s, leads to invasive disease during vulnerable stages of life. Older adults and persons with immunocompromising conditions are at higher risk for Listeria bacteremia and meningitis, which can be fatal. Listeriosis usually is a mild illness in pregnant women, but it can cause severe outcomes for the fetus or newborn infant, including fetal loss, preterm labor, and neonatal sepsis, meningitis, and death. Listeriosis is rare. However, hospitalization is much more common than with other foodborne infections, and listeriosis is the third leading cause of death among major pathogens transmitted commonly by food. Listeriosis incidence decreased by 24% from 1996 through 2001 but has not changed significantly since then. Although most cases are sporadic (i.e., not outbreak-related), outbreaks occur regularly. In 2011, contaminated cantaloupe from a single farm caused the deadliest U.S. foodborne disease outbreak in nearly 90 years. Public health officials rapidly implicated whole cantaloupe, and their actions prevented additional cases and deaths. Outbreak investigations also can reveal unrecognized food sources and food safety gaps that can be closed by regulatory and industry intervention. This report provides an overview of recent surveillance data on listeriosis, highlighting actions needed to protect vulnerable populations.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) June 7, 2013 / 62(22);448-452

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