Listeriosis case linked to kind of bacteria that sickened three in Onondaga County.
Friday, August 12, 2005
By James T. Mulder
The same type of bacteria that infected three Onondaga County residents with the food-borne illness listeriosis earlier this summer has struck in Schenectady County.
Lab tests by the state show a listeriosis case recently reported in Schenectady was caused by the same strain of listeria that sickened three Onondaga County residents, one of whom died last month.
A fourth local case of listeriosis recently contracted by prominent Syracusan Armond Magnarelli was caused by a different strain of listeria.
The test results suggest the Schenectady resident and the three Onondaga County residents may have come down with the potentially fatal illness after eating the same contaminated food. The source, however, is a mystery that might never be solved.
“That’s the million-dollar question – where did this come from?” said Kathy Sen, supervising community health nurse with the Schenectady County Health Department.
Listeriosis is caused by bacteria found in soil and water. Vegetables can become contaminated from soil or manure used as fertilizer. Animals can carry the disease without appearing ill and contaminate foods such as meat and dairy products.
Pinpointing the source is difficult because the average incubation period for the disease is around 30 days. “Sometimes I can’t remember what I ate yesterday, let alone what I ate and where I purchased it 30 days ago,” said Mary Ann Fiminski, another community health nurse who interviewed the infected Schenectady resident.
In Onondaga County, public health investigators are still tracking down leads on potential sources, said Jean Smiley, the county’s deputy health commissioner. “Because of the type of disease and long incubation period . . . we may never know.”
It’s not unusual for the same strain of listeria to show up in different parts of the state.
“People are so transient,” said Sen. “Many of us get our foods from the same supplier, although we don’t necessarily shop at the same store. There are large production warehouses where they are processing at-risk foods that get distributed nationally.”
The Schenectady individual who picked up the disease has been discharged from a hospital, according to Sen.
The three surviving listeriosis patients in Onondaga County have recovered, Smiley said. “Usually people that are more prone to get it have other medical issues unrelated to listeria,” she said. “So the fact that the listeria is resolved doesn’t mean everything is hunky-dory.”
Magnarelli, a former Syracuse Common Council president who hosts a weekly Italian music program on WFBL-AM (1390), is getting rehabilitation at St. Camillus Health & Rehabilitation Center in Geddes, according to his daughter Lou Ann Lee. “He’s recovering nicely,” she said.
He expects to be home in a few weeks and resume his Sunday morning radio program, she said.
Contact James T. Mulder at 470-2245 or firstname.lastname@example.org