CDC issues warning after multi-state listeria outbreak linked to soft cheeses like queso blanco


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning about several cheeses as it investigates a multi-state listeria outbreak.

The outbreak is linked to fresh and soft cheeses such as queso fresco, queso blanco, and queso panela.

The agency notes seven people were hospitalized across four states: Connecticut, Maryland, New York, and Virginia. However, the outbreak may not be limited to these states.

Dates for the illnesses range from October 20, 2020, to January 22, 2021, the report reveals.

The sick people range in age from 45 to 75 years old. Six people are Hispanic, while 43% are female.

No deaths have been reported.

"People who are not at higher risk of severe illness should make sure the Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses (like queso fresco) they eat have labels that say, 'Made with pasteurized milk,'" the CDC said in a statement on Friday.

However, the agency warns that even soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk have caused outbreaks.

“Although pasteurization of milk kills Listeria, products made from pasteurized milk can still become contaminated if they are produced in facilities with unsanitary conditions,” the agency wrote.

Those at high risk for listeria include pregnant women, anyone over the age of 65, and those with compromised immune systems.

As of now, no brand has been identified.

The CDC warned: "Don't eat any Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses (like queso fresco, queso blanco, and queso panela), until we identify a specific type or brand that is making people sick.”

Per the agency, symptoms associated with listeria include common food poisoning symptoms like nausea and diarrhea.

"Pregnant people typically experience only fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. However, Listeria infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn," the CDC explained.

It added: "People who are not pregnant may experience headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions, in addition to fever and muscle aches.”

If you have consumed any soft cheeses and feel symptoms, the agency suggests contacting a healthcare provider immediately.

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