By Steven Reinberg
FRIDAY, April 10, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- As U.S. health officials deal with nationwide recalls of Blue Bell ice cream and Sabra Dipping Co. hummus, consumers are getting up to speed on a little known but potentially fatal bacteria, listeria.
Listeria-tainted ice cream is linked to a total of five illnesses and three deaths in Texas and Kansas, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. Also this week, Sabra recalled 30,000 cases of classic hummus, because of listeria-contamination concerns.
"Listeria causes about 1,600 infections a year and about three to four outbreaks a year in the United States," said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
About 260 deaths occur as a result -- far fewer than the number linked to salmonella, another foodborne illness, the CDC says.
Dr. Brendan Jackson, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC, said that the number of severe cases of listeria is "actually rare."
"If you have eaten a food that has been recalled and you don't have any symptoms there is no need to worry," he said. But if symptoms do develop over the next few weeks, see your doctor, Jackson said.
Glatter agreed that "most people who eat food contaminated by listeria won't become very ill. They can have nausea, vomiting, muscle ache and diarrhea."
However, he added, "there is a more invasive type of illness that can affect people with weakened immune systems, such as those who have HIV, or people with diabetes, heart disease, pregnant women, infants and the frail elderly."
Listeria has been found in unpasteurized dairy products and in ready-to-eat meats, especially hot dogs and deli meats, Glatter said.
The bacteria are usually associated with failure to keep foods cool enough or keeping foods too long. For example, open packages of hot dogs or deli meats shouldn't be kept for more than three to five days, he said.
source : Recalls of Ice Cream, Hummus Spur Listeria Warnings