Washington state health officials said Friday that three people have died and two have been hospitalized in the Puget Sound area after contracting foodborne listeria in what appears to be an outbreak.
Officials noted that tests indicated that the five patients, three men and two women, contracted the disease between February 27 and June 30 and may have the same source of infection, though the investigation has not yet identified a common food source.
Officials said each infected person was in their 60s or 70s and had a weak immune system.
Four of the cases have been in Pierce County, and one is in Thurston County.
the Washington State Department of Health She said she is working with “local health authorities to gather information from interviews with patients and their families to help identify any common exposures.”
While it remains unclear where the cases originated from, officials said the bacteria is commonly found in unheated cheese, deli meats, unpasteurized dairy products, and prepared salads such as potato salads or tuna.
Officials added that the microbe will die at temperatures over 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Listeriosis, caused by the listeriosis bacterium, is the greatest threat to the elderly, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women.
Listeriosis usually appears within two weeks of eating contaminated food and can cause flu-like symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When pregnant, severe cases can lead to miscarriage and other complications.
Washington state records between 10 and 25 cases of infection each year, according to the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department.
From 2009 to 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, the case was recorded 18 listeria outbreak That resulted in 238 hospitalizations and 47 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.