The Center for Disease Control, or CDC, has connected a listeria outbreak that has resulted in at least 22 hospitalizations and one fatality to ice cream served in Florida. The cases have reached at least ten states within the last six months.
Together with the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), public health and regulatory experts in multiple states have pinpointed Big Olaf Creamery ice cream as a possible cause of the outbreak. Retailers are being voluntarily contacted by Big Olaf Creamery to request that they stop carrying its ice cream until further notice.
What Is Listeria?
Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterium that can cause listeriosis, a serious infection that primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, and newborns. Listeria is found in soil, water, and food products of animal origin.
L. monocytogenes are gram-positive bacteria that can survive in harsh environments. They are able to grow at temperatures as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, they can grow in the presence of oxygen.
This bacterium has two major routes into the human body: ingestion and inhalation. Common sources include uncooked meats, unpasteurized dairy products, and contaminated vegetables or fruits.
Signs and Symptoms of Listeria Infection
The signs and symptoms of listeria vary depending on the route of infection:
Infection through the digestive system causes diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps within two days of exposure to Listeria monocytogenes; it may also cause a fever up to 103 degrees Fahrenheit. These symptoms typically last four to seven days but may last longer if you have a weakened immune system.
Infection through the nervous system causes meningitis — an infection of the brain and spinal cord — which can lead to a stiff neck, headache, sensitivity to light, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. Infection through the nervous system is more likely in older people, who are generally more susceptible to infections than younger people. In pregnant women infected with Listeria monocytogenes during pregnancy, miscarriage or stillbirth can occur.
Treatment and Diagnosis for Listeria
Since the symptoms of listeria mimic the symptoms of many diseases, stool or blood cultures will need to be taken for diagnosis. Spinal fluid can also detect listeria. In most instances, a listeria infection will pass with no interventions. In other cases, antibiotics might be needed. If you are immune-comprised, though, the treatment might be different. Symptoms usually start within 24 hours and take a few days to pass.