Listeria Outbreak Has Hit 11 States—These Are the Warning Signs of Listeriosis

Two people have died and more than 26 sickened by dairy products.

Even though there are plenty of guidelines and safety measures in place, the risk of foodborne illness is unfortunately still a potential risk anytime we sit down for a meal. And while proper cooking and cleaning techniques can often protect us, some items occasionally make their way to store shelves and make us sick. The latest example is a Listeria outbreak that has now hit 11 states and counting. Read on for the warning signs of listeriosis and to see which products you should avoid right now.

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Twenty-six people have become ill and two have died in a Listeria outbreak.

scientist in blue gloves conducting listeria test in lab
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On Feb. 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a food safety alert warning the public about a Listeria outbreak that has sickened 26 people so far. Of those, 23 people have been hospitalized, and two died as a result of their illness.

Cases have been reported in 11 states, with California seeing the most with eight confirmed illnesses. Arizona and Colorado each have reported four cases, while Texas and Tennessee have seen two each so far. Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington have all had one reported illness each.

Despite the count, the agency still cautions that the outbreak "may not be limited to the states with known illnesses, and the true number of sick people is likely higher than the number reported." This is because some people who become ill are never treated for their symptoms.

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The cases have been linked to dairy products sold under 13 different brand names.

Mexican Queso Fresco and Tortillas Close up
iStock

In its alert, the CDC says the latest outbreak has been linked to cotija cheese, queso fresco, crema, and yogurt made by Rizo-López Foods. The company issued a total recall for the products, which were sold nationwide.

The affected products were sold under 13 different brand names, including Tio Francisco, Don Francisco, Rizo Bros, Rio Grande, Food City, El Huache, La Ordena, San Carlos, Campesino, Santa Maria, Dos Ranchitos, Casa Cardenas, and 365 Whole Foods Market. A complete list of items can be found on the CDC's notice and the company's recall alert posted by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

The CDC warns that anyone who may have purchased the recalled dairy items should not eat them. Instead, they should throw them away or return them to their place of purchase for a refund. The agency adds that it's important to clean any surfaces, containers, utensils, or refrigerator shelves that may have come in contact with the items.

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You should look out for these symptoms of listeriosis.

Woman with liver pain
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According to the CDC, Listeria is a potentially harmful bacteria that can cause an infection known as listeriosis when someone ingests it. Typically, symptoms of intestinal illness can develop within 24 hours of eating contaminated food, including diarrhea and vomiting.

Most people develop this mild form of the infection, which usually goes away without medical treatment after one to three days. It's also rarely diagnosed as it's not routine to test patients with these symptoms for listeriosis, the agency says.

The illness can become more serious—especially for pregnant people.

A Pregnant Black Woman Touching Her Baby Belly, things you should never lie to kids about
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Unfortunately, some patients may have an even worse medical emergency if they become infected. The agency warns listeriosis can be particularly dangerous for some high-risk individuals, including pregnant people, their newborns, those over the age of 65, and the immunocompromised.

Those who develop this more serious invasive form of the illness start to see other symptoms two weeks after infection, including stiff neck, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, confusion, loss of balance, and seizures, according to the agency. The CDC says listeriosis is fatal in one out of every 20 non-pregnant patients who progress to this severe form.

The agency adds that pregnant people typically develop mild flu-like symptoms—or may never develop any signs of sickness at all. But listeriosis can cause stillbirth, miscarriage, premature delivery, or a life-threatening infection of the newborn, leading to fetal loss in 20 percent of cases and newborn death in roughly three percent of cases.

The CDC advises anyone who has eaten any of the recalled products or has developed a fever or other listeriosis symptoms to contact their doctor immediately. You should inform your healthcare provider that you've eaten possibly contaminated food.

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Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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