Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
September 13, 2002
R. Lacy, M.D.
For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner or Marilyn Riley
TRENTON -The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services
has joined a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) investigation into an outbreak since late June of cases of
Listeria monocytogenes in the Northeast and Midwest, Commissioner
Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. announced today. The infection occurs when
people eat contaminated food products.
So far, 16 cases - 10 in Pennsylvania, two in New
York, two in Maryland, and one each in Connecticut and Michigan
- have been linked to the outbreak. No common source of the illness
has yet been determined.
"New Jersey usually records between 20 and
30 cases annually. Since the end of June, New Jersey has reported
11 cases of listeriosis statewide, including four deaths,"
said Commissioner Lacy. "Further laboratory analysis is being
conducted to determine if the cases were caused by the same strain
of Listeria and are part of the outbreak.''
Listeriosis is caused by a bacterium that is found
in the soil and water, and in animal feed. Outbreaks of the disease
have been associated with unpasteurized (raw) milk, soft cheeses,
contaminated vegetables, and ready-to-eat meats. The disease is
not spread person-to-person. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches,
and sometimes nausea or diarrhea. If the infection involves the
nervous system, it can cause meningitis and/or encephalitis, which
are characterized by headaches, stiff neck and confusion or convulsions.
Anyone can become infected, but pregnant women, newborns, the elderly
and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk. All of
New Jersey's deaths occurred in elderly residents of Mercer, Burlington
(two deaths) and Gloucester counties.
"People can protect themselves by taking basic
steps to prevent the transmission of any food-borne illness,"
said State Epidemiologist Eddy Bresnitz, M.D. "This includes
washing and cooking food thoroughly, keeping uncooked meats separate
from ready-to-eat foods, avoiding raw milk, and thoroughly washing
surfaces and utensils used to prepare raw foods."
In addition, people at high risk may want to take
the following additional precautions:
- Avoid soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert,
blue-veined and Mexican-style cheeses.
- Cook leftover or ready-to-eat foods such as hot
dogs until steaming hot.
- Although the risk of listeriosis associated with
cold cut meats from deli counters is relatively low, those at
high risk may wish to avoid them or thoroughly heat them before
New Jersey is participating in a multi-state investigation
with the CDC to determine the source of the infections. New Jersey
is also conducting active surveillance through local health departments,
clinical laboratories and hospitals to determine if there are any
additional cases. Additional information about listeriosis may be
obtained at the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/listeriosis_g.htm