Caramel Apples Linked to Five Listeria Deaths: CDC

Following at least five deaths and 28 reports of listeria illnesses, government health officials are warning consumers to avoid eating any commercially produced caramel apples. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opened an investigation and published a nationwide caramel apple warning on December 19, indicating that some commercially produced products may be contaminated with listeria monocytogens.

At least 28 reports of listeria poisoning have been identified by the CDC involving the same strain of infection across ten states, including five deaths linked directly to the infections.

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The CDC is collaborating with state and local agencies to identify the source of the outbreak by using PulseNet, a national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by CDC that identifies possible outbreaks. To date, the CDC has identified two outbreak clusters that are believed to be related due to one person being infected with both listeria strains simultaneously.

As of December 18, investigators had interviewed 15 of the 28 infected patients, all of which had reported eating commercially produced caramel apples. Of the 28 patients infected with the listeria outbreak, 26 have been hospitalized and five have died.

Reports have indicated nine pregnant women have been hospitalized for treatment and close monitoring. Three children between the ages 5 and 15 years-old are being treated currently for more invasive illnesses such as meningitis caused by the listeria infection spreading throughout the body.

Cases of infection have been recorded in Arizona, California, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. The illnesses were first seen on October 17, 2014 and the last illness was recorded on November 27.

Listeria infections may result in symptoms such as nauseam muscle, ache, diarrhea, fever, and fatigue. In severe cases for the elderly and young children, the bacteria could spread through the bloodstream to the nervous system resulting in sometimes fatal infections.

For pregnant women, listerosis can pose a risk of miscarriages, still births, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn. The infection has become more prevalent and concerning than some of the more common contaminations such as Salmonella, simply because most people do not experience symptoms immediately and delayed treatment can cause more severe adverse health consequences.

CDC investigators say they are trying to identify specific brands of commercially produced caramel apples that may be linked to the outbreak, and pinpoint the source of contamination. Consumer who have consumed potentially infected caramel apples who show listeria symptoms should consult with their healthcare providers immediately and report all adverse health consequences to the CDC or FDA.

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