The Klickitat County Health Department is working with local and state partners to investigate three recent cases of Listeriosis infection in pregnant Latina women from Klickitat and Yakima counties.
These cases have resulted in one stillbirth and one preterm birth that ended in death. In the third case, a newborn infected with Listeriosis was successfully treated with antibiotics. One of the women who lost her baby resides in Klickitat County.
Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by consuming foods contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, which can multiply in contaminated food products even when properly refrigerated.
Early laboratory results from genetic fingerprinting conducted by the state Department of Health laboratory in Shoreline, indicate that the bacteria from all three women matched, showing a possible common food source.
While no isolated food source has been identified, officials suspect the infections were caused by the consumption of raw cheese, but investigations to identify the specific source continue.
Health officials urge Klickitat County residents not to eat unpasteurized cheese products because of possible Listeria contamination.
"There are a number of diseases potentially transmitted through the ingestion of unpasteurized dairy products, as we've seen recently, Listeriosis can be among the most devastating," said Kevin Barry, director of Klickitat County Health Department.
Listeriosis infection rarely causes noticeable illness among healthy people, but can be extremely serious or fatal among high-risk populations.
Pregnant women, unborn babies and newborns, and those with weak immune systems are most likely to develop serious or life-threatening complications from the disease.
The recent cases of Listeriosis infection have been among people who fit this profile.
Listeriosis infection can cause a range of symptoms. Healthy people may have diarrhea or flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, and muscle aches. It can result in bloodstream infection or meningitis. Women who are infected during pregnancy may pass it to their babies. This can result in early delivery or stillbirth. Pregnant women and their newborns are 20 times more likely than healthy adults to get a Listeria infection.
Listeriosis infection is linked to various foods, which pregnant women and other people at higher risk of severe infection should avoid, including:
Soft cheeses such as feta, queso blanco, queso fresco, Brie, Camembert cheeses, blue-veined cheeses, and Panela (UNLESS the label specifically states product is made using pasteurized milk)
Raw (unpasteurized) milk or other products made from or containing raw milk
Hot dogs and deli meats (ham, chicken, turkey, bologna, pastrami, etc.)
Store salads with ham, chicken, egg, tuna, or seafood
Pates, meat spreads, and smoked refrigerated seafood
There are some steps everyone can take to reduce the risk of acquiring a Listeria infection:
Avoid unpasteurized milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk (including cheese).
Wash raw vegetables thoroughly before eating.
Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources, such as beef, pork, or poultry.
Keep uncooked meats separate from vegetables and cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
Wash hands, knives, and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods.
Consume perishable and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible.
"Along with not eating unpasteurized dairy products and using perishable foods as soon as possible, keeping your refrigerator below 41 degrees Fahrenheit and discarding food that has been left out after two hours are good safe food practices," said Jeff Martin, environmental health specialist with Klickitat County Health Department.
For more information or questions please call the Klickitat County Health Department 493-1558.