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Multistate Listeria Monocytogenes Outbreak Linked to Ham Products

OCT 09, 2018 | MICHAELA FLEMING
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working alongside the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) and health officials in multiple states to investigate a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections that have been linked to deli ham.

As of October 3, 2018, 4 individuals have been infected with the outbreak strain across 2 states. Specimens from ill individuals were collected from July 8, 2017 to August 11, 2018; cases that occurred after September 3, 2018 may not be reported yet due to an average of 2 to 10 weeks from the onset of illness until the illness is reported.

The affected individuals range in age from 70 to 81 years, with a median age of 76 years. All 4 cases have required hospitalization and 1 death has been reported. Samples collected from the ill were processed using whole genome sequencing (WGS) and demonstrate that the bacteria were closely related genetically, indicating the illness is likely from a common source.

Epidemiologic evidence has indicated that deli ham from Johnston County Hams, Inc. of Smithfield, North Carolina is likely the source of the outbreak.

As part of the investigation, health officials conducted interviews will the ill about consumption and exposures prior to the onset of illness. Three of the 4 ill individuals were interviewed and all 3 reported eating deli ham or deli meats from grocery stores or restaurants. Additionally, the fourth individual who could not be interviewed, was a resident at an assisted living facility where Johnston County Ham products were served. 

Further, the USDA-FSIS has announced that during routine inspections of the Johnston County Hams facility in 2016 and earlier in 2018, WGS results discovered the presence of Listeria in deli ham. The strain present in the findings is similar to the strain from the ill in this outbreak, providing more evidence that these products are likely the source of the outbreak.

On October 3, 2018, Johnston County Hams issued a recall for ready-to-eat ham products produced between April 3, 2017 and October 2, 2018. This recall also included ready-to-eat ham products produced under the brands Ole Fashion Sugar Cured The Old Dominion Brand, Padow’s Hams & Deli, Inc, Valley Country Hams, and Goodnight Brothers.

Following this recall, additional recalls were subsequently issued by Callie’s Charleston Biscuits, LLC, for country ham and cocktail ham biscuits and Ladyfingers Catering, LLC for country ham rolls.

Healthcare providers operating in the affected states should be cognizant that patients who have fever and diarrhea may be suffering from listeriosis. Invasive listeriosis can cause headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. This condition is particularly concerning in older adults, individuals with weakened immune systems and pregnant women. Invasive listeriosis in pregnant women can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or infant infections.

The CDC advises consumers to return any of the recalled products for a refund or throw it away.

This is an ongoing investigation and the CDC will continue to provide updates as they become available.

For the most recent case counts associated with the Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to ham products, check out the Contagion® Outbreak Monitor.
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