- WASHINGTON -- Federal health officials are investigating an outbreak of
food poisoning from listeria that has killed four people and sickened more
than 35 in nine states.
- The prime suspects are hot dogs and cold
cuts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed yesterday.
- Neither the CDC nor officials at the
Agriculture Department, which is in charge of meat safety, would confirm
which brands or manufacturers were under suspicion in the investigation.
But the CDC said that people at the greatest risk from food poisoning --
pregnant women, the elderly, and those with weak immune systems -- should
- "If they want to reduce their risk,
they should avoid those foods or thoroughly reheat their cold cuts before
eating them," CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said.
- Listeria is a bacterium that healthy
people often fight off with no more than flulike symptoms. But it also
can kill through meningitis or blood infection. It is especially dangerous
during pregnancy, when bacteria passed to the fetus can cause miscarriage
or stillbirth even if the mother has no symptoms.
- Cases are under investigation in Ohio,
New York, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Michigan, West Virginia, Connecticut,
Oregon and Vermont.
- Genetic fingerprinting of the bacterium
helped health officials link the cases, and they suspect hot dogs and cold
cuts, because those are the foods that all of the patients have eaten.
The CDC expects laboratory test results from actual products within two
days that could determine the brands involved and whether any recalls are
required, Skinner, the CDC spokesman, said.
- He said that, although the last known
patient became ill in late November, "if there still is contaminated
product out there, we might see more cases."