State Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
today urged pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened
immune systems to avoid sliced turkey deli meat or to heat it thoroughly
before eating. Federal officials have identified turkey deli meat
as the leading suspect food in an outbreak of listeriosis in seven
late June, 21 New Jersey residents have been infected with Listeria
monocytogenes - a bacterium that can contaminate food products
- and seven infected people have died. So far, laboratory testing
has shown that four of the 21 New Jersey patients were infected
with the same strain of Listeria that is causing the outbreak
in the Northeast. Cultures show that 10 of the patients are not
linked to the outbreak. Four patient samples remain to be tested
at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
and samples are not available for the remaining patients.
is a very serious food borne illness that is particularly dangerous
for pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and people with weakened
immune systems," Dr. Lacy said. "In fact, three New Jerseyans
infected with the outbreak strain were pregnant women and the fourth
was an infant born to one of the women. This underscores the need
for people at increased risked to take the appropriate precautions
to avoid infection.
the infected adults who died, most were over age 65 and all had
underlying medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, chronic
renal failure and sickle cell anemia," the Commissioner added.
Friday, the CDC identified sliced turkey deli meat as the leading
suspect food in the outbreak. CDC, state and local health officials
are continuing their multi-state investigation to identify the brand
or brands of turkey involved and the origin of the product.
40 people with the outbreak strain of Listeria have been
identified in Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut
and Michigan, as well as in New Jersey. All were hospitalized, seven
died and three pregnant women had miscarriages or stillbirths.
Jersey's seven deaths occurred in residents of Bergen (two deaths),
Burlington, Mercer, Gloucester, Essex and Cumberland counties. They
ranged in age from 56 to 82, and all had underlying medical problems.
infection is acquired through eating contaminated food products.
The Listeria bacterium is found in soil and water, and in
animals and animal feed. Outbreaks of the disease have been associated
with consumption of unpasteurized (raw) milk, soft cheeses, contaminated
vegetables and ready-to-eat meats.
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 headache, stiff neck and confusion or
Jersey usually records between 20 and 30 cases of listeriosis annually.
These cases occur sporadically, which means they are not associated
with any outbreak.
is likely that most of the 21 cases in our state will turn out to
be sporadic cases not linked to the current suspect food. This means
that it is important for people - especially those at high risk
-- to take additional precautions to prevent infection," added
Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, state epidemiologist and assistant commissioner.
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,'' he explained.
addition to avoiding or heating sliced turkey deli meat, people
at high risk may want to take the following additional precautions:
soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined and Mexican-style
leftover or ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs until steaming
or thoroughly heat other sliced deli meats before eating.
information about listeriosis may be obtained at the CDC website
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