SMH warns pregnant women to avoid Big Olaf ice cream linked to listeria outbreak

SARASOTTA, Florida (WWSB) – Sarasota Memorial Hospital is sounding the alarm for pregnant women after the Centers for Disease Control linked a listeria outbreak to a return to the Suncoast.

The CDC issued a warning Saturday warning customers to discard products from Big Olaf Creamery in Sarasota and to clean anything they touch. As of Sunday afternoon, one death and 22 hospitalizations have been attributed to this outbreak, which has spread across ten states.

The investigation details included in the report described how investigators interviewed 17 people who became ill, 6 of whom claimed to have eaten Big Olaf’s ice cream, or to have eaten ice cream from a place provided by Sarasota with cream. The investigation is ongoing, according to the CDC’s website.

Washington Hill, a specialist in fetal medicine at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, spoke to news outlets with amplification calling to stress that listeria can pose a serious risk to expectant mothers. He said mothers can have flu-like symptoms or not have any, but it is possible for a baby to become infected and suffer severe consequences.

“There can be a miscarriage or stillbirth or if the baby is born he can spend some time in the intensive care unit,” he said.

However, we asked Hill how often mothers-to-be suffer miscarriages or stillbirths after contracting listeria, and he said it was “rare,” with worst-case scenarios occurring in about 5% of those cases. However, he wants to make sure all pregnant women in the area are aware of the outbreak, so they stay safe.

Hill recommends that pregnant women who have recently eaten Big Olaf ice cream contact their doctors whether or not they are experiencing symptoms. He said women with symptoms can get treatment, but they shouldn’t panic or rush to the emergency room.

For men and women who are not pregnant, Hill said listeria is “not really a serious disease” as these patients typically have flu-like symptoms or digestive problems.

SMH hasn’t been able to explain why the CDC has linked Big Olaf to the outbreak, and they haven’t confirmed whether any of the patients are from Sarasota or Manatee County.

Big Olaf Creamery disputes this claim. Rosie Peachy, a company representative, released a written statement explaining that she does not believe Listeria originated from this cream. The full statement is as follows:

“At the moment, this is just speculation because it is an ongoing investigation, and our brand has not been confirmed to be associated with these cases, and I am not sure why Big Olaf was mentioned and only targeted. The original report we got from the Florida Department of Health on Friday, July 1, is That there are 23 reported cases, the first reported case was in January 2022. 6 out of the 23 patients said they ate Big Olaf ice cream, but nothing happened. It was proven. We cooperated with the Florida Department of Health, FDACS and FDA as soon as we were informed We have been transparent, answered all their questions and provided them with all the information required of us, because the health and well-being of the public is our number one priority.”

SMH also shares more educational material about listeria and the risks associated with pregnant women, which you can read by clicking here.

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