Austin doctor: Listeria outbreak shouldn't last long


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN FISHER

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on July 8, 2013 at 6:33 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 8 at 6:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Last week Whole Foods recalled a line of cheeses after one person died and others were sickened. It's the latest outbreak that's been linked to listeria.

Despite at least one death and five people taken to a hospital nationwide because of the suspected link to the cheese, the head of one local medical center says this listeria outbreak should be contained fairly quickly.

When Whole Foods recently recalled the Crave Brothers Les Freres cheese, one man wasn't surprised.

"That is where I, as an obstetrician, have most commonly encountered listeria," said Albert Gros, M.D., chief medical officer St. David's South Austin Medical Center. "It's in the setting of contaminated cheeses."

Gros says animals carry the bacteria, so it's easy for listeria to enter the food stream in agricultural settings where food is grown and harvested.

"So it can be found in meats, cheeses, milk," said Gros.

Doctors says acute symptoms for listeria poisoning include fever, muscle aches, headaches, nausea and diarrhea. Twenty-five percent of the listeria cases are fatal.

"The listeria bacteria will not kill or harm a very healthy individual usually," said Gros.

He says people with compromised immune systems are the ones most at risk.

"Such as infants, pregnant women or the elderly," said Gros. "People that have HIV/AIDS or people that have certain cancers."

Unlike the cantaloupe listeria outbreak in 2011, Gros sees a quick end to this listeria outbreak.

"I think this is going to be fairly self-limited," he said. "They've identified the source, and they've recalled it quickly. It's a specialty cheese product, so it's not something as widely distributed as cantaloupe."

Gros says it is possible to carry listeria for two months before it manifests itself. He recommends seeing a doctor if you exhibit the symptoms listed above.

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