Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that an outbreak of the deadly listeriosis in six US states is linked to contaminated meat and cheese. But what can you do to reduce your risk of infection?
Here’s what you need to know about this disease
Listeria is a very tolerant bacteria that can continue to grow during refrigeration and freezing, an advantage that not even salmonella and E. coli have.
In the United States, listeria is the third leading cause of death from foodborne illness, killing about 260 people annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Control (CDC).
The US Food and Drug Administration noted that “even with appropriate treatment with antibiotics, the disease has a high mortality rate” of 20-30%.
Pregnant women are about 10 times more likely to get listeriosis, and the disease can be fatal to the fetus.
The US Food and Drug Administration noted that Hispanic pregnant women are at a higher risk of infection, likely due to their consumption of traditional soft cheeses, such as gypsum cheese and other foods made from unpasteurized milk.
The agency warned that foods made with raw milk were 50 to 160 times more likely to contain listeria.
Adults and children with a healthy immune system may develop a mild or bothersome illness that does not require hospitalization or antibiotics.
However, anyone who is immunocompromised, such as the elderly, patients undergoing organ transplants, people with cancer, kidney disease or diabetes, or people with HIV/AIDS, can develop a potentially fatal illness.
The recent outbreak, which has caused one pregnancy loss and the death of an adult in Maryland, has been linked to the sale of ready-to-eat meat and cheese.
So far, 16 people have been infected, and 13 others have been hospitalized, but “the real number of patients in this outbreak is likely to be higher than the number recorded, and the outbreak may not be limited to states with known diseases,” the Centers for Disease Control said, Wednesday. .
Meat was a common source of listeriosis outbreaks in the 1990s, according to the Centers for Disease Control, likely due to the difficulty of cleaning resistant bacteria from every nook and cranny in food preparation equipment, the agency reported.
However, the listeria outbreak has been linked to fruits, vegetables and dairy products, such as cantaloupe and celery, leafy greens such as spinach, and soft cheeses and ice cream, the agency said.
How do you protect yourself from it?
Keep your kitchen clean: Clean your refrigerator regularly with hot water and liquid soap. Prepare meat and vegetables separately and make sure food preparation areas are sanitized.
Keep the fridge cool: Since Listeria can grow easily in cooler temperatures, keep your refrigerator at 5°C or less. The temperature of the refrigerator should be minus 18 degrees Celsius or less.
raw milk: The Centers for Disease Control states that eating foods made with raw milk is “one of the most dangerous ways” to contract listeria and other harmful germs.
Soft cheeses: Pregnant women or those at high risk should avoid eating soft cheeses of all kinds, such as “feta” cheese, unless it is classified as made from pasteurized milk.
buds: It is not easy to rinse bacteria from alfalfa, radish, bean or any type of sprouts, high-risk individuals should avoid eating raw or even lightly cooked sprouts.
Make sure you cook the sprouts thoroughly first, as even local ones can harbor bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Leafy vegetables: Some leafy greens such as kale, spinach, lettuce, and wild watercress grow underground, increasing the potential for listeria contamination in the soil.
Wash any green plants well so that they are safe to eat. Use these steps:
Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before and after handling any green leaves.
Do not soak the vegetables in the sink, as this will spread any bacteria on one leaf to all the leaves.
Remove any torn or damaged papers.
- Under running water, gently rub each leaf and then dry the leaves with a clean cloth.
watermelon: Watermelon is another source of Listeria infection. Eat the watermelon pieces right away and discard any pieces that have not been refrigerated for four hours or longer.
Refrigerate the watermelon pieces at 5°C or colder for no more than seven days.
Cold meats and sausages: Women who are pregnant or at high risk should avoid eating cold meats such as sausage, lunch meat, dry meat, or any other ready-to-eat meat unless it is heated to a temperature of 74 degrees Celsius immediately before eating it.
The Centers for Disease Control advised against eating ground beef from prepared foods or from the refrigerated section of stores.
Ground meat that does not need to be refrigerated before opening, such as produce in cans or airtight bags, is a safer option.
Anyone who eats these foods at home should be careful not to allow liquid from meat containers to reach other foods or food preparation surfaces, dishes, and utensils.
The agency stressed the need to wash hands carefully after touching any type of sausage or cold meat.
And you should know how long these foods are stored at home, as the Centers for Disease Control pointed out that sealed packages of cold meats sealed in the factory should be disposed of after two weeks in the refrigerator.
Opened packets of meat should be disposed of after three to five days in the refrigerator, and open packets of sausage can last up to a week in the refrigerator.