An outbreak of listeria linked to pre-packed hospital sandwiches, prepared by Staffordshire-based firm The Good Food Chain, caused two patients at Manchester Royal Infirmary and one patient at Aintree Hospital in Liverpool to lose their lives, as per Public Health England (PHE).
In addition, three other patients were left severely sick from the lethal bug, which can cause an illness like flu, after consuming listeria-contaminated food.
A further three hospital patients have contracted the infection and a probe has been launched into how the outbreak occurred.
In case you’re wondering what listeria is, it is actually a genus of bacteria that can live in soil, water, and some animals, including poultry and cattle. It can grow at cold temperatures, like inside a refrigerator. The listeria bacteria can cause a type of food poisoning called listeriosis.
So, what happens if you are infected with listeria? People who are fairly healthy and have contracted listeriosis can be sick with typically mild symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, chills, and a fever for a day or two.
However, the listeria bacteria can cause serious or life-threatening illness for vulnerable people, particularly pregnant women and their babies, as well as people who have weak immune systems, and the elderly, the WebMD states.
Three people dead after hospital sandwiches contaminated with listeria https://t.co/n5xVHzzCUB
— The Independent (@Independent) June 7, 2019
Professor Brendan Wren, an expert from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, told The Sun: “If consumed it can lead to gastroenteritis, and in compromised patients more severe disease such as meningitis and, in rare cases, death.”
This fatal form of listeriosis can cause symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. If a baby is infected with listeria, symptoms may include little interest in feeding, fussiness, fever, and vomiting, according to WebMD.
It’s also important to note that when the listeria bacteria contaminate foods, such as deli meat (e.g. cantaloupes, hot dogs) that aren’t processed properly, or dairy products made from milk (e.g. soft cheeses) that isn’t pasteurized, one can’t even see, smell, or taste it.
Meanwhile, according to the Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), “People with invasive listeriosis usually report symptoms starting 1 to 4 weeks after eating food contaminated with Listeria; some people have reported symptoms starting as late as 70 days after exposure or as early as the same day of exposure.”
NHS was warned about listeria risk from pre-packed sandwiches three years before deadly outbreak https://t.co/wVndA5jzcf
— The Sun (@TheSun) June 9, 2019
The Good Food Chain distributes sandwiches, made from meat supplied by North Country Cooked Meats from Salford, Greater Manchester, to 43 of 135 NHS hospital trusts across England. Listeria has been subsequently detected on the meat produced by North Country Cooked Meats.
Sandwiches and salads from The Good Food Chain have since been withdrawn, and productions in both companies have voluntarily stopped. “Public health experts advised us of this supply chain issue on Friday 24 May and we immediately removed all products from this supplier,” Aintree Hospital told BBC.
While North Country Cooked Meats was “currently co-operating fully with the environmental health and the Food Standards Agency in their investigations,” its spokesperson said.
— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) June 9, 2019
Tanya Marston, 38, from Ashford, Kent, was one of the victims of the new listeria outbreak in England. The listeria sufferer was infected with the bacteria after eating contaminated chicken mayonnaise, ham, and cheese sandwiches during her month-long stay at William Harvey Hospital, where she was being treated for Crohn’s disease.
One day after being discharged, Marston, a charity volunteer and mom of one, was rushed to the hospital, as she showed symptoms of high temperature. Through blood tests, doctors then confirmed she was infected with listeria.
“I’m so grateful my temperature spiked. If it hadn’t, I’d have gone home without any blood test and the listeria might not have been spotted in time. I could have died,” Marston told MailOnline.
Public Health England said sandwiches and salads linked to the cases have been withdrawn and the supplier has ceased production while an investigation is carried out
“It’s something that needs to be addressed particularly in an environment such as a hospital, where you go in to get better—you don’t expect to die from eating a sandwich,” Marston, who was given up to seven intravenous drips per day during her week-long stay in hospital to treat listeria, said in an interview with Sky News.
Speaking to ITV News, Jim Winship with the British Sandwich and Food to Go Association, said: “Listeria is probably the main danger in terms of chilled foods going to patients with lower immune systems because they are vulnerable for that. It’s really very concerning really that some of the hospitals carry on serving them.”
BREAKING: Three dead after eating sandwiches infected with listeria given in hospital. https://t.co/hYbkc6creR
— Metro (@MetroUK) June 7, 2019
Fortunately, the risk of the listeria outbreak spreading to the public is low. “We, along with the FSA, colleagues in local authorities and the NHS have worked quickly to determine the likely cause of this outbreak and taken action to reduce the risk to the public’s health,” said Dr. Nick Phin, deputy director at the National Infection Service at PHE.
“To date, there have been no associated cases identified outside healthcare organizations, and any risk to the public is low,” Dr. Phin continued.
To prevent listeria infection, NHS advises people to keep chilled food in the fridge, heat food till it’s piping hot, and not eat food after its use-by date. Other than all that, it’s also wise to ensure food is cooked properly and meat is cooked all the way through so that any harmful bacteria can be destroyed.
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