Three dead in fish Listeria outbreak in UK

Three people have died in an outbreak of Listeria linked to fish in the UK.

The UK Food Safety Agency, Food Standards Agency (FSA), Public Health Scotland and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) are investigating the outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes which was first made public in April.

Twelve patients across the UK have been identified, including three in Scotland, with disease onset dates between October 2020 and March 2022.

Ten sick people are over 65 and one is a pregnant woman. Three of those affected over the age of 65 have died.

Six people have fallen ill since January 2022. The majority of patients reported eating smoked fish.

The FSA and FSS conduct food chain and microbiology investigations, including whole genome sequencing (WGS), but the cause remains to be confirmed.

In June, Waitrose recalled 2 hot smoked UK rainbow trout fillets because Listeria monocytogenes had been detected in the product. However, there is currently no evidence linking the presence of Listeria to an outbreak.

Listeria is of concern in refrigerated ready-to-eat foods that don’t require additional cooking, such as smoked fish.

Information for pregnant women has been updated to advise them to cook smoked fish thoroughly before eating it. Smoked fish has also been listed as a high-risk product that must be thoroughly cooked before consumption by anyone in a high-risk group.

Tina Potter, incident manager at the FSA, said the public need not avoid smoked fish products, but should ensure the risks are reduced as much as possible.

“You can do this by keeping ready-to-eat smoked fish refrigerated at 5 degrees C (41 degrees F) or lower, always using the products according to their expiry date, following the storage and use instructions on the etiquette and cooking. or reheating smoked fish until piping hot,” she said.

About Listeria Infections
Foods contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell tainted, but can still cause serious and sometimes fatal infections. Anyone who has developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical attention and inform their doctor of possible exposure to Listeria.

Additionally, people should self-monitor for food poisoning symptoms over the next several weeks, as it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop.

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle pain, severe headache, and stiff neck. Specific laboratory tests are needed to diagnose Listeria infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and people like cancer patients with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk for serious illnesses, life-threatening infections, and other complications. Although infected pregnant women have only mild flu-like symptoms, their infections can lead to premature delivery, newborn infection, or even stillbirth.

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