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Listeriosis outbreak in Chile: 91 cases, 5 deaths in 11 months

Friday, November 28th 2008 - 20:00 UTC
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Watch out with the cheese sandwiches Watch out with the cheese sandwiches

Chilean health authorities admitted this week for the first time that they have an outbreak of listeirosis which so far this year has caused five deaths out of 91 cases reported cases in metropolitan Santiago.

Listeriosis hit the headlines of Santiago's media following a spell of recent cases particularly in the most residential areas of the Chilean capital. According to the official release from the Ministry of Public Health the five include a baby, a toddler, an old person, an immuno-depressive and an adult. Of the 91 reported contagion cases, 42% are pregnancies which is the highest risk group since if not properly treated the foetus can be infected with high risk of life. Furthermore of the 91 cases, 59% belong to residents in Las Condes and Vitacura, two of the most residential quarters of the city. Sanitary authorities believe the concentration of cases could be linked to the source and kind of food at this time of the year, cold or frozen, because contrary to other strains the listeriosis bacteria better develops in cold atmospheres. However last Tuesday health authorities ordered the Lescure brand cheese, Brie type, to be cleared from all stores and supermarket shelves fearing a posible link with the deadly bacteria. The decision was taken after samples from the Lescure brie goat cheese in lab tests at the Epidemiology Department of the Ministry of Public Health showed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes. The cheese was taken from the home refrigerator of one of the patients who declared he had had cheese sandwiches before falling sick. Chilean authorities also pointed out that the statistical incidence of listeriosis is on average 20 cases annually in metropolitan Santiago, but the numbers have soared and since early October the have been monitoring the situation. It was then that it was decided to officially recognize the existence of a listeriosis outbreak, which means a thorough research into the origin and composition of the bacteria has begun. The outbreak comes at a sensitive moment for Chilean health and sanitary authorities since it was recently revealed that several patients had been contaminated with HIV during blood transfusions in government hospitals and the information remained undisclosed for the victims. Chile has had problems with pork exports to South Korea and Japan because some shipments were found to have a higher degree of dioxins than legally authorized. The problem was tracked to hog food suppliers. Similarly with the infectious salmon anaemia, (ISA) which although not harmful for humans, it has virtually spread to the whole industry. Listeriosis is defined as a bacterial infection caused by a gram-positive, mobile bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes. Although relatively rare it occurs primarily in newborn infants, elderly patients, and patients who are immunocomrpomised.

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