Health Warning After Listeria Infection From Smoked Salmon Kills Two

Two elderly people have been killed by Listeria, with health authorities tracing smoked salmon as the likely cause.

The federal health department has sounded the warning after three cases of Listeriosis were diagnosed in elderly people in Victoria, NSW and Queensland.

Two of those people have since died.

Smoked salmon was blamed for the deaths of two people. Photo: Getty

"Investigations have implicated smoked salmon as the likely source," the department said.

"This is a timely reminder for people to ensure that food is handled, prepared and stored safely, and that those most at risk of Listeriosis avoid certain foods."

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All were aged over 70 and had significant previous health issues, the department noted, but is warning Australians to properly handle food and mitigate risk factors.

Soft cheese like camembert can be a risk for listeriosis. Photo: Getty

"Listeriosis is an illness usually caused by eating food contaminated by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes," the health department said.

"The bacteria are widely distributed in the environment and can grow in food at refrigeration temperatures. Most people who are exposed to Listeria will only develop mild symptoms, though illness can be severe in those most at-risk."

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Foods including chilled seafood -- raw oysters, sashimi, sushi, prawns -- cold meats, rockmelon, soft serve ice cream, pate and meat spreads, unpasteurised dairy products and pre-packaged salads are among those with high Listeria risk, the health department said. Soft or semi-soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, ricotta, blue and feta are also at-risk foods.

The department warned pregnant women, unborn babies, newborn babies, the elderly, and people with immune systems weakened by illness or medication are most vulnerable to Listeria.

The infection can cause symptoms similar to flu, including fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhoea.

Listeriosis can be avoided by eating only freshly-cooked and prepared food, as well as avoiding food past its best before date, keeping leftovers refrigerated and consuming them within 24 hours, cooking food thoroughly, or reheating food until it is steaming hot.

For more information, see the Food Standards Australia website.