Due to recent deaths and illnesses caused by Listeria, people are advised to avoid consuming prepackaged caramel apples. The illness took five lives and affected other 26 people in 10 states: Washington, California, Utah, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Carolina.
The outbreak started before Halloween, on Oct. 17, last case being reported on Nov.27. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked the illness to the caramel apples as data revealed that 83 percent out of those interviewed confirmed having eaten commercially produced caramel apples.
The age of those affected ranges from 7 to 92 years old, with an average of 64 years. The CDC said that out of 26 infected cases, nine were either infants or pregnant women.
Three unusual cases were reported during this time, all of them being associated with listeria. The cases were three older children that developed meningitis. CDC epidemiologist Christopher Braden said that it is a worrisome fact that children who were otherwise healthy were affected by such a disease. Listeria usually affects newborns and not healthy older children.
Braden added that the possible cause of so many child cases is either their general preference towards sweets or that the apples were heavily contaminated. It is possible for new cases to have arisen, although none have been reported yet.
The CDC together with public health officials, are taking measures to prevent new cases from occurring. As this prepackaged popular Halloween treat can last over a month, it might still be found in some stores. Homemade caramel apples are not considered harmful.
Braden added that the agency is now trying to identify the brands linked to the infected apples and how they might have gotten contaminated. He added that the consumption of apples and that of caramel merchandise is safe.
Listeria is defined as a foodborne illness that can be very harmful to pregnant women, newborns and elders. It also affects those immuno-compromised therefore it is unlikely for healthy individuals to catch such a disease. People affected by listeria complain of fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea. The treatment consists of antibiotics.
Since it can be very harmful for some people, listeria outbreaks report higher mortality rates than other infectious agents such as Salmonella or E.coli. The 2011 listeria outburst, took 33 lives. It was associated with Colorado cantaloupes.
People are advised to throw away any prepackaged caramel apples they still have at home. They should also wrap them carefully as to prevent them from being eaten by animals or people going through the trash.
Image Source: LA Times