CDC suspects turkey meat in listeriosis outbreak, now at 43 cases

Oct 9, 2002 (CIDRAP News) – Federal health officials say they believe deli turkey meat is the source of a listeriosis outbreak that dates back to midsummer and has grown to 43 cases in seven states, but they have not specified the source of the meat.

The outbreak stood at 43 cases in Pennsylvania and six other states yesterday, with seven deaths and three miscarriages or stillbirths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Late last week, the CDC announced that the leading suspect food in the outbreak was sliced deli-style turkey meat. The agency repeated that statement in an update yesterday, but did not identify the producer of the meat. "Federal, state, and local health officials are continuing to investigate to determine the brand(s) and origin of the product involved," the update said.

"I'm told that there is" an idea as to the producer of the meat, "but that's still being worked on with the USDA [US Department of Agriculture]," Katie Hoskins, a CDC spokeswoman in Atlanta, told CIDRAP News. She said the agency will probably have an announcement on that question soon.

Hoskins said the investigation of the outbreak began when Pennsylvania officials noted cases in the Philadelphia area around midsummer. There have been 14 cases in Pennsylvania, 17 in New York, 4 in New Jersey, 4 in Delaware, 2 in Maryland, 1 in Connecticut, and 1 in Michigan, the CDC reported. All the patients were hospitalized.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said last week that it began probing the outbreak early in September by sampling products for Listeria monocytogenes. More than 50 FSIS staff members were working on the outbreak last week, according to FSIS Administrator Garry L. McKee. The FSIS regulates meat, poultry, and eggs.

The CDC said the 43 cases all featured the same strain of L monocytogenes. More than 30 other recent listeriosis cases in the same region were found to involve different strains, the agency said.

See related commentaries, "Blame the public health system for prolonging listeriosis outbreak" and "Listeria's unique challenge calls for unique responses," by Craig W. Hedberg, PhD.

See also:

FSIS Oct 2 news release
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/news/2002/phupdate100202.htm

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