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Placer County public health officials announced Wednesday that a nationwide outbreak of listeriosis associated with commercially produced prepackaged caramel apples may have extended locally.

Initial reports indicate that an El Dorado County resident recovering from listeriosis probably acquired the illness from a caramel apple purchased at a retail store in Placer County. Investigators are working to determine the specific brands of caramel apples that are related to the outbreak. In the meantime, public health officials are strongly recommending that consumers avoid eating any commercially-produced, prepackaged caramel apples until more information about the source of the infections is identified. No illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged.

As of December 18, 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 28 people from 10 states infected with an outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes, the bacterium that causes listeriosis. At least twenty-six patients have been hospitalized and five deaths have been reported.

The symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, and sometimes nausea or diarrhea. More rarely the infection can spread to the nervous system, causing symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions.

Most of the cases in the outbreak appear to have been acquired over a month ago and no cases of listeriosis associated with tainted caramel apples have been reported in Placer County. However, the link to a retail store in Placer County and the possibility of people giving caramel apples as gifts or storing them to eat over the holidays triggered health officials to remind the public to avoid pre-packaged caramel apples.

“This reminder comes out of an abundance of caution. We just don’t someone’s holidays ruined because of a case of listeriosis,” said Dr. Robert Oldham, Placer County Health Officer and Public Health Director.

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