†††††††††††††††††††† HEALTH DEPARTMENT


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† (Serving All of Webb County)††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 2600 Cedar Avenue†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††P.O. Box 2237

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Laredo, TX78044-2337

††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††(956) 795-4900FAX: (956) 726-2632



News Release

Date:†††††††††††††† August 20, 2003 †††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

To:†††††† ††††††††††† All Media Contacts

From:†††† †††††††† Gabriela Carriedo, Supervisor, Public Health Promotion Program

Thru:††††††††††††††† Hector Gonzalez, MD, M.P.H., Health Director


Mexican Cheese May Cause Listeriosis


Laredo, TX - - The Texas Department of Health is warning consumers not to eat unpasteurized, soft, white cheese from Mexico illegally sold in the state.The cheese has been linked to listeriosis in six pregnant women and seven babies in South Texas and in the Houston area over the last several months.Two of the babies died.The City of Laredo Health Department would like to warn the community that if anyone tries to sell them unmarked cheese or cheese that is labeled as queso blanco or queso fresco from an unknown source, not to buy it.


The cheese, commonly called "queso fresco" or "queso blanco", may contain Listeria, a bacterium found in soil and water.TDH officials say the suspect cheese is typically sold in flea markets and by street vendors and that the warning does not apply to pasteurized, properly labeled, soft, white, Mexican cheese sold in reputable stores and markets.


Genetic fingerprint testing by the TDH laboratory in Austin determined that the Listeria that caused the infections in the pregnant women and their unborn babies most likely came from the same original source.TDH epidemiologists identified the cheese as the common-denominator food eaten by the mothers.


State and federal regulations require that imported soft cheese be pasteurized, labeled in English and be continuously stored at 45 degrees F or lower.


Most of the suspect cheese is not labeled or is labeled only in Spanish and is usually sold in wedges, chunks or blocks wrapped in cellophane or plastic wrap.Officials believe the imported cheese often is not pasteurized or safely stored.Pasteurization or cooking kills Listeria.


Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches and sometimes diarrhea or nausea.Headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance or convulsions may occur if the infection spreads to the nervous system.The incubation period is usually from 12 hours to three weeks but can be longer.


Healthy adults and children rarely become seriously ill from Listeria infection.But pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are at greater risk.


Pregnant women may only have mild cases of the illness, but infections during pregnancy can lead to premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirths or babies being born with infections that can be life-threatening.


For more information please contact the City of Laredo Health Departmentís Environmental Division at (956) 795-4904 or Gabriela Carriedo at (956) 795-4938 or e-mail: gcarriedo@ci.laredo.tx.us