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2006 News from Mecklenburg County

February 22, 2006


Charlotte, NC - A case of listeriosis diagnosed in a newborn infant born last week highlights the importance of making sure the foods you and your family eat are madeto only the highest standards and the proper ingredients.

The baby girl, born to a Latina mother on February 18, was born premature and delivered by C-section. A trace of listeria was found in the baby’s bloodstream. Doctors believe the bacteria were transferred from the mother at the time of delivery. The child is being treated with antibiotics.

Throughout the latter part of her pregnancy, the mother says she ate a Mexican soft cheese sold by Hispanic street vendors in her neighborhood in northwest Charlotte. The Mecklenburg County Health Department believes that the cheese was likely made with unpasteurized milk and contained the listeria bacterium.

You can get listeriosis by eating food contaminated with listeria. The disease affects primarily pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. About 500 of the 2,500 persons who become infected each year will die.

• A person with listeriosis has fever, muscle aches, and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If an infection spreads to the central nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur.

• Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild flu-like illness. However, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or infection of the newborn.

Listeria monocytogenes is found in a variety of raw foods, such as uncooked meats and vegetables, as well as processed foods that become contaminated after processing, such as soft cheeses and cold cuts at the deli counter. Unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk may contain the bacterium. Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking.

• Make sure the foods you buy and eat are manufactured under the proper guidelines and are made using only pure ingredients.

• Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, Brie and Camembert, blue veined cheeses, or Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco, queso fresco, and Panela unless they have labels that clearly state they are made from pasteurized milk.

• Do not buy these type items from unlicensed street vendors who are not regulated by the State or County.

More information about listeria is available at the Web site at

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