By JUSTIN MASON, The Leader-Herald
AMSTERDAM – New York State Health Department officials continue to investigate the source of the most recent case of listeriosis, a potentially life-threatening illness. The latest case was reported by St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam this week.
Hospital officials confirmed Tuesday that a patient is being treated for Montgomery County’s first case of listeria infection this year. Although hospital confidentiality laws bar the release of any personal information, spokeswoman Jerri Cortese said the infected person is in good condition.
“The patient is receiving appropriate treatment and the condition is reported as good,” she said.
State and county health officials are determining if the infection is related to three others identified in the Syracuse-area July 6 and a fourth that was reported in Schenectady County July 28. Determining if there’s a link between the cases could also help identify the source of contamination, said Rob Kenny, a spokesman for the Health Department. Kenny said today an additional case was discovered Tuesday in Rensselaer County.
“Our investigation is ongoing,” he said. “We haven’t connected it to any food source or any source at this time.”
Listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused by listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that is wildly present in nature and can be found in soil and water, according to the Health Department.
While many bacteria generally infect specific locations within the body, listeria may infect many different areas, such as the brain or spinal cord membranes or bloodstream.
Kenny said symptoms of an infection include high fever, nausea, vomiting and intense headache and has an incubation period anywhere from three to 70 days.
“Those experiencing gastrointestinal illness should contact their local health department,” Kenny said.
Most at risk to fall ill from infection are newborns, the elderly, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women, according to the health department.
“But it’s typically not life threatening with the majority of the public,” he said.
So far, there’s no timeline as to when health officials will have more information about the Montgomery County infection, said Mary Lou Wyble, Montgomery County’s assistant public health director.
“We’re still doing some investigation and talking with the patient, but we still have some additional information we require,” she said.
The most common mode of transmission of listeriosis is through the ingestion of tainted food, such as unpasturized milk or raw vegetables. But the illness can also be contracted through direct contact or by inhaling the bacteria, according to the Health Department.
“We have not linked it to any food at this time,” Kenny said.
Kenny said the strain of Lysteria in all three Syracuse-region cases, one which has resulted in a death, and the Schenectady County case were linked. But he declined to acknowledge if these four cases were caused by tainted food.
“We will continue to work with the local health departments to determine if there’s a link to a common source and what that source may be,” he said.
Nationwide, there are about 2,500 listeria infections annually, which typically result in nearly 500 fatalities, Kenny said. In New York, there are usually about 50 cases documented per year.
The most recent outbreak of the bacteria struck the state in 2002, killing seven people, including three in the Capital Region. Another multistate outbreak in 1998 that left 16 dead was later determined to have resulted from contaminated hot dogs and deli meats.
In late July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a health safety alert concerning possibly contaminated smoked salmon from Florida that was sold in four states, including New York. The contamination was revealed during a routine test of the Hickory House that was conducted by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The company issued a recall of 2- to 4-pound packages produced on June 13 carrying the brand names Salmon House, Superior brand Norwegian Cure and Golden Eagle. They maintain a shelf life of three to four months if left unopened in an unfrozen state.