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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Carl Kanefsky, Communications Director
(302) 540-4979, Pager

Date: June 14, 2010


Health Reminders Regarding Contamination

The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) has identified simultaneous cases of Brucellosis in a 58 year old female New Castle County resident and Listeriosis in a 44 year old male in Sussex County. These illnesses are both bacterial infections which primarily affect those consuming or coming into contact with contaminated animals or animal products, most commonly the consumption of raw food or dairy products. In both instances, these patients had consumed raw dairy products prior to becoming ill, and the individual with Listeria had also been handling raw poultry products. No other risk factors have been identified. The Brucella case was hospitalized and discharged. The Listeria case is still admitted but stable.

DPH statewide inspections of retail food establishments are in place to protect consumers from purchasing or consuming raw dairy products, but unlawful distribution may still occur.

"We're relieved that the affected individuals are both in stable condition and recovering. It could have been much worse," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH Director. "These cases can serve as an unfortunate reminder that we are vulnerable to certain bacteria and should take precautions to protect ourselves. People will still need to handle affected animals or work with animal products but they should be aware of the dangers and the illness prevention measures. In addition, we should all be reminded that consuming questionable food items is not worth the risk to your health."

Brucellosis primarily affects farm workers, veterinarians and laboratory workers. The last confirmed case of Brucellosis in Delaware was in 2006. Brucellosis is not common in the United States - nationally the average is less than 200 cases annually - as person to person transmission is rare. Brucellosis is most frequently transmitted by eating or drinking raw milk and cheese made with unpasteurized dairy products yet can also be contracted through inhalation or touch.

Listeria bacteria is more common and is found in nature, such as water, soil and infected animals. Listeriosis, like Brucellosis, can be spread by several different methods, but is commonly transmitted through the ingestion of unpasteurized milk or contaminated vegetables.

Signs and Symptoms of Brucellosis and Listeriosis are similar to the flu. Treatment requires the administration of antibiotics. Depending on the timing of treatment and the severity of illness, recovery may take several weeks.

No vaccine is available to prevent these illnesses, but preventive measures can be taken. Do not eat or purchase unpasteurized milk or dairy products, especially while traveling outside the U.S. Meat packers, hunters, slaughterhouse employees and anyone handling raw meat should wear protective gloves and wash their hands thoroughly.

For more information, contact DPH at (302) 744-1033 or toll free at 1-888-295-5156 and/or visit the CDC websites:

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.