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Spain Listeria outbreak over after over 200 sickened

Spain’s largest ever Listeria outbreak is over according to authorities with no new infections reported in the last 20 days.

La Consejería de Salud y Familias ended the listeriosis alert, which was started in mid-August, after confirming the risk of new infections was minimal and implicated products were not still being distributed. The incubation period of listeriosis, which can be up to seventy days, is about to expire.

The agency will maintain usual surveillance for a mandatory notifiable disease such as listeriosis.

In the space of two months, the outbreak from “La Mecha” brand chilled roasted pork meat produced by Magrudis caused three deaths in elderly people and five abortions. More than 200 cases were declared, of which 176 correspond to the same strain found in Magrudis products and 28 are pending analysis. Most were registered in Seville but people also fell sick in Cádiz, Granada, Huelva, and Malaga.

A total of 57 percent were women, with an average age of 45.5 years and the average age in men was 50 years. Almost 40 confirmed cases were found in pregnant women. Almost 80 percent of confirmed cases have had an incubation period of three days or shorter.

Four people are still in hospital compared to August 22, when the hospitalization peak was reached with 125 patients. There are no pregnant women affected in Andalusian hospitals or any patients in intensive care units.

High survival rate

The outbreak was reported by Spanish authorities to the World Health Organization, via the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) in late August.

Graph showing the mortality rate in past Listeria outbreaks

The Minister of Health and Families, Jesús Aguirre, said that in the largest outbreak of listeriosis in Europe, the survival rate exceeds other similar incidents.

“In Andalusia, survival has been 98.6 percent, while in the United States outbreak it was 78 percent and in South Africa outbreak 73 percent,” he said.

The 2017-18 Listeria outbreak in South Africa affected 1,060 people with 216 deaths and was traced to polony made by Enterprise Foods, owned by Tiger Brands. The 2011 outbreak in the U.S. affected 147 people in 28 states with 33 deaths and was linked to whole cantaloupes from Jensen Farms.

More than 1,800 establishments have been inspected to verify the withdrawal of more than 8,000 kilograms of meat. The strain involved was characterized as serovar IVb, ST-388, CC388, CT-8466.

Most affected products from Magrudis were distributed in Andalusia, although Extremadura, Madrid, Castilla y León, and Castilla-La Mancha also received small quantities, according to the Ministry of Health, Consumption and Social Welfare (MSCBS). They were not sent outside Spain. Some had a shelf life of up to three months.

French authorities notified a confirmed case in an English citizen, diagnosed in France on August 16 and with a history of consuming cold pork in Seville on August 13. WHO officials had warned about the high number of tourists to Spain during the summer months meaning international travelers could have been exposed while the product was in the market.

La Consejería de Salud y Familias has created a group to coordinate alerts related to food safety that will be responsible for guiding the design of a new control plan against Listeria. An international scientific meeting to analyze the management of the food crisis will be held in the coming months.

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