3 dead in listeria outbreak in Washington state

Health officials in Washington state said Friday that three people had died and two had been hospitalized in the Puget Sound area after contracting foodborne listeria infections in what appeared to be an outbreak.

Testing indicated that all five patients, three men and two women, became ill between Feb. 27 and June 30 and probably had the same source of infection, officials said, though an investigation had not identified a common food source.

Each infected person was in their 60s or 70s and had a compromised immune system, officials said.

Four of the cases were in Pierce County, and one was in Thurston County.

The Washington State Department of Health said it was working with โ€œlocal health jurisdictions to gather information from interviews with patients and their families to help identify any common exposures.โ€

It was unclear where the cases originated. Officials said the bacteria are commonly found in unheated cheeses and deli meats, unpasteurized dairy products, and premade deli salads, such as potato or tuna salads.

Officials added that the microorganism would die at temperatures above 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Last year, a multistate listeria outbreak was linked to contaminated deli meat and cheeses. Other recent outbreaks have been caused by contaminated store-bought ice cream and leafy greens.

The illness listeriosis, caused by the bacteria listeria, is of greatest threat to older adults, people with weakened immune systems and those who are pregnant.

Listeriosis typically manifests within two weeks of consuming contaminated food and can cause flu-like symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In pregnant people, severe cases can lead to miscarriage and other complications.

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