Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Listeria outbreak in Massachusetts

This week the Dept of Health in Massachusetts reported that 4 human cases (including 2 deaths and 1 miscarriage) of Listeria infection over the last 6 mos. were linked by 'DNA fingerprinting' to retail milk samples obtained from a local dairy farm (Whittier Farms, Sutton MA). Listeria Monocytogenes is a gram positive bacteria that can cause septicemia GI disease and spread to the Nervous system. Listeria is a common soil organism that can cause disease when ingested, especially in pregnant women, children and people with weakened immune systems. I have seen several cases of menengitis/encephalitis in animals and I can only imagine how devastating this can be in people. From the Milford Daily News " The Department of Public Health (DPH) has issued a warning to consumers not to drink any milk products from Whittier Farms in Shrewsbury because of listeria bacteria contamination, which has contributed to the death of two people.

Four cases of listeriosis infection have been identified by DPH, according to a statement released by the state department late this afternoon. The cases occurred in June, October and two in November. The four cases involved three elderly residents and a pregnant woman from Worcester county. Two of the people have died. They have not been identified.

DNA fingerprinting conducted by the State Laboratory Institute showed that the bacteria causing these infections came from a common source. Samples collected showed product contamination.

The troubling thing is that the milk was apparently pasteurized. Either there was a defect in the system or this strain of Listeria is more resistant to temperature and pressure. That could mean a increased risk for everyone and needs to be watched closely.

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