A Caramel Apple Listeria Outbreak Killed Four People & Hospitalized Dozens — So Don't Eat Any

The season for eating caramel apples may have passed, but the sweet treat is now having a deadly effect. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Friday that a listeria outbreak from caramel apples killed four people. The listeria, which is a bacteria that can lead to the serious illness listeriorisis, was found in commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, according to the CDC. So far, none of the illnesses from the outbreak have been linked to regular apples that are not caramelized or prepackaged. 

At least 28 people in 10 states were affected by the outbreak, 26 were hospitalized, and five died, but one case was not directly due to listeria. Unfortunately, nine of those cases involved pregnancy, either affecting a pregnant woman or a newborn. More than 80 percent of these patients said they had eaten store-bought, prepackaged caramel apples.

Listeria cases in Missouri, New Mexico, Minnesota, Texas, Arizona, Wisconsin, Washington, California, Utah, and North Carolina were diagnosed in late October and November, according to the CDC. Any cases after December 3 might not have been reported yet. 

Around 1,600 people get sick from listeria infections each year in the U.S. Of those people, at least 90 percent of people who get listeriorisis are pregnant women, the elderly, newborns, and people with weaker immune systems. The bacterial infection affects the central nervous system, which then causes diseases such as meningitis, meningoencephalitis, brain abscess, and cerebritis. The current outbreak has been linked to three cases of invasive meningitis in healthy children between the ages of 5 and 15. 

The listeria bacteria is ubiquitous in the environment, but one cannot contract it unless consumed orally through contaminated food products. Once infected, symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches, convulsions, and confusion may appear. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact a medical professional immediately. Listeriorisis is the third-leading cause of death from food poisoning with a 20 percent mortality rate. Most people who are infected require hospital care.

Among the brands that are being pulled off shelves are Carnival and Kitchen Cravings, which were purchased by consumers in Minnesota who later became sick. While health officials work to determine the specific brand of caramel apple responsible for the outbreak, the CDC warns against consuming any prepackaged caramel apples at this time.

Image: Fotolia

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