CDC investigates 2 foodborne illness outbreaks

Tostadas topped with meat, lettuce and queso fresco surrounded by limes, radishes and salsa.

Feb. 23, 2021—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating two separate outbreaks of foodborne illness that together have sickened more than 20 people across multiple states.

One outbreak involves Listeria monocytogenes. It's been linked to Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheese like queso fresco.

The other outbreak involves E. coli O157:H7. It has not been linked to a specific source. But the strain causing this outbreak has been previously associated with romaine lettuce and recreational water (such as in lakes, streams and pools).

What to know about the listeria outbreak

The listeria outbreak has sickened seven people in four states: Connecticut, Maryland, New York and Virginia. All seven people have been hospitalized.

Who's at high risk? Listeria can cause severe illness, called listeriosis, especially for people at higher risk. That includes:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Newborns.
  • Adults 65 and older.
  • People with weakened immune systems.

Symptoms. Pregnant women with listeriosis usually experience fever, fatigue and muscle aches. But listeriosis can also cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery or severe infection in the newborn.

People who are not pregnant can have fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions.

Call your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms after eating Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses.

What you should do. If you have any of the cheeses on the recall list at home, throw them away. And disinfect any surfaces or containers that may have come in contact with them.

What to know about the E. coli outbreak

Sixteen people have been sickened from five states: Arkansas, New York, Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington. Nine people have been hospitalized, three of whom developed kidney failure and one of whom died.

Public health officials are talking to sick people to find out what they ate prior to becoming ill. At this time, however, no specific food or water source has been identified.

Symptoms. You should call your doctor right away if you have any of these severe symptoms:

  • Diarrhea and a fever higher than 102 degrees.
  • Diarrhea for more than three days that isn't getting better.
  • Bloody diarrhea.
  • Vomiting to the point you can't keep liquids down.
  • Signs of dehydration, such as not urinating much, dry mouth and throat, or dizziness upon standing.

What you should do. You may be able to help CDC identify what's causing this outbreak. If you get symptoms of E. coli, write down what you ate during the week before you got sick. Call your local or state public health department and report your illness.

And follow these smart habits that can help prevent food poisoning.

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