Listeria outbreak: Sixth person dies after eating pre-packaged hospital sandwich

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
The person fell ill with listeriosis while a patient at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (AP)

A sixth person has died after eating pre-packaged sandwiches and salads that are linked to the hospital listeria outbreak.

The latest death was one of the nine cases previously confirmed and PHE said there have been no new cases linked to the outbreak.

The patient acquired listeriosis from Good Food Chain products while at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Public Health England (PHE) said.

Hand holding simple cheese sandwich half with lettuce and pickle

What is listeria?

Listeria is a bacterium that causes the listeriosis infection. While people who contract listeriosis usually see it go away on its own, serious problems can occur to pregnant women or those with a weak immune system.

How do you catch it?

People who eat food containing listeria can come down with listeriosis. However, you can also catch it by eating food that someone with the infection has handled if they have not washed their hands. Close contact with farm animals can also be a factor.

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Can you get listeria from all foods?

While there are many foods that could contain the listeria bacteria, the problem is mainly centred on unpasteurised milk, soft cheese like brie and chilled ready-to-eat foods - like pre-packed sandwiches and salads.

What are the symptoms?

People can have listeriosis and not even realise, while mild symptoms like diarrhoea, sickness or vomiting, chills, aches and pains and a temperature of 38C or above can last for a few days and can be treated at home.

However, you should seek medical advice if you notice these symptoms and are pregnant or have a weakened immune system.

The NHS website advises calling 999 if you have a severe headache and stiff neck and discomfort looking at bright lights.

Other more severe symptoms include seizures, sudden confusion or a rash that does not fade when a glass is rolled over it.

Listeria can be caught from food and as a result of poor hygiene (Getty)

How can you avoid listeria?

General hygiene like wash your hands regularly with soap and water and washing fruit and vegetables before eating is recommended.

Cooking food thoroughly and not eating food past its use by date is also advised.

What is happening in the latest outbreak?

The latest death, linked to pre-packaged sandwiches and salads, was one of the nine cases previously confirmed, while the other deaths occurred at four different hospital trusts - two at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, one at Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool, one at University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust and the fifth at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

There is another case at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, one case at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust and one at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, which have not been fatal.

There is a higher risk at picking up listeria from foods like soft cheese (Getty)

PHE said it was testing all samples of listeria on an ongoing basis. It has tested 34 samples of listeria and said that none are linked to the outbreak. PHE insisted the health risk to the public remains low.

The Good Food Chain, which supplied 43 NHS trusts across the UK as well as one independent provider, voluntarily ceased production and PHE said the investigation into the outbreak is continuing.

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