The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns US residents to stop buying and consuming prepackaged caramel apples because four people died and 26 more are in a hospital after eating such products contaminated with listeria, a rare bacteria.
Caramel apples have the major sales during Halloween season, i.e. mid-October to early November, but health officials say that prepackaged apples could have an extra month until expiry date and this season’s batch could still be on stores shelves.
CDC reported this week that about 28 people were rushed to the hospital due to listeria contamination, while 26 were in an enough severe condition to be hospitalized. Five people have died due to listeriosis, an illness they developed after ingesting listeria contaminated caramel apples. However, one man, although infected with listeria, didn’t die of listeriosis, doctors say.
More than 80 percent of the people diagnosed with listeria said that they had been eating prepackaged caramel apples before being rushed to the hospital.
Listeria is an anerobic bacteria that can lead to serious complications mainly in small children, pregnant women and elderly people. Individuals with a weakened immune system could also be affected.
Listeria is very dangerous if it develops listeriosis in humans. Listeriosis is a serious infection that can lead to sepsis and meningitis, and even death. The infection’s mortality rate is about 20 percent.
The CDC says that its experts are now fully investigating the listeria cases. Christopher Braden, CDC epidemiologist, said that he and his colleagues are trying to determine which brands of caramel apples were contaminated with listeria. Mr. Braden also said that people shouldn’t avoid eating plain apples or caramel-based foods.
Two of the four listeria-related deaths were recorded in Minnesota. CDC’s investigators said that the people who got ill there reported consuming caramel apples produced by Carnival and Kitchen Cravings brands. Minnesota Department of Health said that none of these brands were available in any of the states’ stores. However, other brands may also be contaminated with listeria so the search continues.
Other two deaths occurred in California and Texas. However, Texas health officials are not sure if one Texan man really died of listeriosis. The most cases were reported in Missouri and New Mexico.
Listeria is not dangerous for healthy people and it usually responds to antibiotics. Listeria infected patients often report fever, nausea, muscle pain and diarrhea.
Because listeria can lead to serious consequences in more vulnerable patients such as infants, pregnant women, elders etc. its death rate is much higher than in other bacteria such as E.Coli or salmonella. Three years ago, in Colorado 33 people died of listeriosis.
CDC warn people to dispose all prepackaged caramel apples and wait for further updates.
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