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2 Die After Being Infected By Listeria

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DENVER (AP/CBS4) – Two people infected by a bacteria have died following a sharp rise in the number of cases at the end of August, state health officials said Friday.

A total of nine people were infected by Listeria monocytogenes last month, compared with two in a typical month, said Alicia Cronquist, an epidemiologist for Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

Seven of the listeriosis cases were reported this week.

All the victims are adults ranging from their 30s to their 90s from eight Front Range counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson and Weld. The department didn’t release which counties the two deaths occurred in.

Cronquist said it’s not known if any cases are related to a smoked salmon recall by Chicago-based Vita Food Products that involved fish sold in Colorado Safeway stores as well as other stores in over 20 other states. Officials are investigating each case by talking to those who became sick or their relatives about their recent activities, including what they’ve been eating.

“It’s a very serious illness and we are very concerned,” Cronquist said.

The bacteria is plentiful and can be found in the soil, animals and manufacturing plants and can grow at refrigerated temperatures, she said. Infections are rare but those at risk include those over 60, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems. They can reduce the risk of infection by avoiding soft cheeses made with unpasteurized as well as deli meats and smoked seafood — unless the meat is heated to an internal temperature above 165 degrees or cooked in a dish like a casserole.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shared the following specific recommendations for people at high risk for Listeria infection:

Meats

Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, cold cuts, other deli meats (e.g., bologna), or fermented or dry sausages unless they are heated to an internal temperature of 165 F, or until steaming hot just before serving.

Avoid getting fluid from hot dog and lunch meat packages on other foods, utensils and food preparation surfaces, and wash hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats and deli meats.

Do not eat refrigerated pâté or meat spreads from a deli or meat counter or from the refrigerated section of a store. Foods that do not need refrigeration, such as canned or shelf-stable pâté and meat spreads, are safe to eat. Refrigerate after opening.

Seafood

Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood, unless it is contained in a cooked dish, such as a casserole, or unless it is a canned or shelf-stable product. Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna and mackerel, is most often labeled as “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked” or “jerky.” These fish typically are found in the refrigerator section or deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens. Canned and shelf-stable tuna, salmon and other fish products are safe to eat.
Cheeses

Do not eat soft cheese such as feta, queso blanco, queso fresco, brie, Camembert, blue-veined or panela (queso panela) unless it is labeled as made with pasteurized milk. Make sure the label says, “made with pasteurized milk.”

General recommendations from CDC:

Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources, such as beef, pork or poultry, to a safe internal temperature. For a list of recommended temperatures for meat and poultry, visit

Rinse raw vegetables thoroughly under running tap water before eating.

Keep uncooked meats and poultry separate from vegetables, cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods.

Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk, and do not eat foods that have unpasteurized milk in them.

Wash hands, knives, countertops and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods.

Related Link: CDC Listeria Information

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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