Listeria Outbreak in Washington Linked to Contaminated Milkshakes

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A recent health scare has emerged in Washington where three individuals tragically lost their lives due to milkshakes contaminated with listeria bacteria. Additionally, three others were hospitalized after consuming these tainted drinks. The health officials were quick to trace the source of this outbreak to “Frugals,” a restaurant located in Tacoma, Washington, which is approximately 30 miles away from Seattle.

This connection was made after two of the affected individuals reported having consumed the milkshakes from this restaurant shortly before they fell ill. Upon delving deeper into the matter, the Washington State Department of Health made a concerning discovery. According to USA Today, the ice cream machines at Frugals were not cleaned adequately, leading to contamination. Although the restaurant took action by discontinuing the use of these machines on August 8, the health department issued a warning.

They stated that the symptoms of listeria could manifest in individuals up to 70 days after exposure. Further complicating the situation, a genetic analysis of the bacteria found in the milkshakes matched the strain responsible for hospitalizing six individuals between February 27 and July 22. A commonality among these patients was that they all had underlying health conditions, making them more susceptible to the disease. 

For those unfamiliar, Listeria monocytogenes is a type of harmful bacterium. It thrives in damp environments and can be found in places like soil, water, decaying vegetation, and even some animals. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided insights into how this bacterium spreads. It can contaminate food during any stage of production, from the point of harvesting to its storage, especially if the surroundings are already tainted with the bacteria. 

Listeriosis, the disease resulting from consuming food contaminated with listeria, can manifest differently based on the individual’s health and age. The most vulnerable groups include pregnant women, elderly adults over the age of 65, and individuals with weakened immune systems. Pregnant women may experience symptoms like fatigue, muscle aches, and fever.

In severe cases, listeria can lead to miscarriages or premature births. For others, the symptoms can range from fever, muscle aches, and fatigue to more severe signs like headaches, a stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and even seizures. The silver lining is that listeriosis is treatable, with antibiotics being the primary line of defense. In a related incident earlier this month, the FDA raised alarms about a potential listeria outbreak.

This was linked to ice cream cups labeled “Soft Serve on The Go,” produced by Real Kosher Ice Cream based in Brooklyn, New York. Two individuals reported adverse health effects after consuming this ice cream. Upon investigation, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture tested an unopened sample of this product from a patient’s home and confirmed the presence of listeria monocytogenes. 


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