A national outbreak of listeria linked to imported cheese has killed at least one person and sent 14 to the hospital, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Three deaths have been reported among those who were sickened but so far listeria has been confirmed as a contributing factor in only one of those. CDC and state officials are investigating the other deaths.
Forever Cheese of Astoria, N.Y., has voluntarily recalled one lot of its Frescolina-brand ricotta salata cheese because of Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The cheese was sold between June 20 and Aug. 9. The original, large wheels of cheese had a production number of "441202" on them.
The CDC did not say where the death occurred. State health officials in Maryland said three people have been hospitalized after consuming listeria-tainted cheese.
The cheese was sold in California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.
The first person fell ill on March 28, the most recent on Aug.30, according to CDC. All 14 ill individuals were hospitalized. Four of those sickened were pregnant women, two were newborns. The other 10 people were between 56 and 87 years old.
Consumers who have purchased recalled Frescolina brand ricotta salata cheese should not eat it and throw away any remaining cheese, the CDC said.
Listeriosis, the illness caused by infection with listeria monocytogenes, is serious and can be deadly. Symptoms include fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Victims can also have headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balanceand convulsions.
In pregnant women, listeriosis is especially dangerous because, although it may cause only a mild, flu-like illness in the mother, it can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn. It is also very dangerous to the elderly and adults with weakened immune systems.