A listeria outbreak in the US has been linked to ice cream made and sold in Florida, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Saturday.
The outbreak, so far responsible for 22 hospitalizations and one death, spans 10 states. However, the vast majority of those affected – 20 people – reported living in or traveling to Florida before getting sick.
The finger is now being pointed at Big Olaf Creamery, based in Sarasota, Florida, which sells ice cream exclusively in the state. People are advised to avoid eating Big Olaf Creamery ice cream, throw away any of their products, and clean any surfaces or items the ice cream may have come into contact with.
A full recall has not been issued, but Big Olaf Creamery has been voluntarily contacting retailers to recommend against selling their products, the CDC has said.
Public health officials interviewed 17 of the affected individuals, finding that 14 of them – 82 percent – recall eating ice cream in the month before they got sick, according to the CDC. Of the 13 who could remember details about the ice cream, six named Big Olaf Creamery as the brand or said they ate it at a location at which the company’s ice cream might be sold.
Cases of listeria infections were first reported in January 2021, although the vast majority occurred in the past six months. As of June 29, there has been a total of 23 infections in people ranging from less than one year to 92 years old. However, the true number of cases is likely to be higher, the CDC says.
Listeria infections are caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause serious illness when it spreads from the gut to other parts of the body. Listeriosis, as the infection is called, can be fatal – roughly 1,600 people in the US get listeriosis each year, and around 260 die – and is especially dangerous during pregnancy.
Most at risk are pregnant people and their newborns, those aged over 65, and people with a weakened immune system. Other people can become infected and get sick, but the risk is substantially lower.
Symptoms usually occur within two weeks of eating the contaminated bacteria and differ between people who are pregnant and people who are not. Pregnant people generally experience fever, fatigue, and muscle aches; while other people are more likely to report headaches, confusion, a stiff neck, problems balancing, and convulsions, alongside fever and muscle aches.
Everyone is advised to call their healthcare provider if they experience any of these symptoms, and of course, to steer clear of ice cream products from Big Olaf Creamery for the time being.
[H/T: The New York Times]