Skip to content

Listeria is especially dangerous for the elderly, people who are pregnant, and those with compromised immune systems.

WASHINGTON — A food poisoning outbreak tied to deli meat and cheese has sickened 16 people, including one who died, U.S. health officials said.

Most were hospitalized and one illness resulted in the loss of a pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The illnesses date back to April last year with the most recent report on Sept. 29, the agency said.

Many reported eating meat or cheese from deli counters where investigators detected listeria in open packages of sliced meats and in the environment. The bacteria was found at two NetCost Market locations in New York, but health officials said that’s not likely the only source of the listeria outbreak because some sick people didn’t shop at the store.

Those sickened were from New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois, New Jersey and California. The death was reported in Maryland, the CDC said.

RELATED: Maryland death connected to listeria outbreak

Eleven of those who fell ill are of Eastern European background or speak Russian and investigators are trying to figure out why.

NetCost temporarily closed the deli at its store in the borough of Brooklyn last year after New York health officials notified the company that three people infected with listeria all ate food from there. After a deep cleaning, no listeria was detected. But in September, the outbreak strain was found at the same market.

NetCost did not immediately respond to an email for comment.

Listeria is a persistent germ that can be hard to get rid of from surfaces and equipment. Symptoms of listeria poisoning include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea. 

Are you at high risk?

Listeria is especially dangerous for the elderly, people who are pregnant, and those with compromised immune systems.

People who do not fall into these groups are unlikely to get very sick from listeria bacteria, according to the CDC. Most experience food poisoning symptoms and recover without treatment. 

People who are pregnant usually experience only fever, fatigue and muscle aches, the CDC says, but the illness can cause pregnancy loss or premature birth, and can cause serious illness or death in newborns. 

Symptoms for people who are not pregnant include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, convulsions, fever and muscle aches.

What should you do if you’re high risk?

Do not eat meat or cheese from any deli counter, unless it is reheated until “steaming hot” or an internal temperature of 165 degrees, according to the CDC. Listeria bacteria is killed at a high temperature, but can survive in cold temperatures like a refrigerator. 

Clean your refrigerator, containers and surfaces that may have touched deli meat or cheese from the deli.

Call your doctor or health care provider if you have any symptoms of severe illness after eating meat or cheese from a deli. Symptoms of severe illness typically start within two weeks of eating contaminated food, but may start as early as the same day and as late as 10 weeks after, according to the CDC. Listeria is treated with antibiotics.