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Washington health officials still searching for source of deadly listeria outbreak

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(The Center Square) – Washington State Department of Health (DOH) officials are still probing the cause of a lethal outbreak of listeria that has claimed the lives of at least three individuals over the last several months.

“Not at this time,” DOH individuals said in a statement to The Center Square when asked if authorities are any closer to tracing the outbreak to a common food source.

“The investigation is ongoing,” officials added in defining the disease as a pathogen often transmitted by eating contaminated food. “Public health officials choose control measures based on the specifics of each individual foodborne outbreak.”

In all, DOH reports five adults, all over the age of 60 and with compromised immune systems, have fallen ill, with the other two still hospitalized. Authorities add genetic fingerprinting shows the group of two women and three men most likely picked up the infection from the same food source between February 27 and June 30. Along with DOH, regional health departments in Tacoma-Pierce and Thurston County are also interviewing patients or close contacts to determine any common exposures.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infected individuals typically report symptoms that could include fever, diarrhea, muscle aches, loss of balance and seizures one to four weeks after becoming infected. In some cases, symptoms can start as soon as the same day or as late as three months after initial exposure.

The disease that is treated with antibiotics predominantly infects pregnant women, newborns, older adults and individuals with weakened immune systems.

While the state of Washington typically sees 25 cases a year. Across the country, about 1,600 people fall ill with listeriosis annually, and about 260 people succumb to it.

To steer clear of the disease, CDC officials recommend that individuals refrain from eating unpasteurized or unheated foods, such as unpasteurized cheeses, like queso fresco and brie, raw milk or yogurt, premade deli salads and unheated deli meats.

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