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Spain’s biggest ever outbreak of listeria prompts international alert 

Health officials in Spain say they are doing all they can to investigate and control the serious outbreak of listeriosis detected in Andalusia and “will leave recriminations” until later.

Minister of Health, Con-sumption and Social Welfare, María Luisa Carcedo, say all national and EU protocols are in force and she has every confidence that they will work.
Nearly 200 people have been affected so far in a number of regions, including Andalusia, Extremadura, Catalonia, Asturias and Aragón. Many other cases are still subject to confirmation but at the time of going to press, the outbreak was said to be “slowing down”.
Two people have died, aged 90 and 74, but both had other ailments. One of them was suffering from cancer.
More thn 50 of those affected have had to spend time in hospital and pregnant women have been affected.
The outbreak is the worst ever seen in Spain but health officials insist everything possible is being done.
“Since August 16, the protocols of the national alert network and the EU have worked,” said the minister. “Spain is one of the most demanding countries in food security and outbreaks such as Andalusia should serve to further improve our action and response protocols.”
The alert in Andalusia followed an outbreak of food poisoning caused by listeria and associated with the consumption of meat products of the La Mechá brand.
So far, there is no indication that the products have been distributed outside of Spain.
The minister highlighted the importance of the cohesion, territorial cooperation and institutional loyalty in the management of food alerts such as that originated after the outbreak detected in Anda-lusia. “The main thing is to contain the outbreak and care for those affected. There will be time later to debug responsi-bilities, if any.”
The French authorities notified on August 23, via the EU Early Warning and Res-ponse System, a confirmed case of listerioris in an English citizen, diagnosed in France and with a history of meat consumption in Seville days before.
The company has voluntarily assumed the withdrawal of the product from its customers and discontinued production. It is possible that some of the affected product is still available in Spain as it has a long expiry date so people have been put on alert, including tourists.
Meantime, the Junta of Andalusia has defended its actions prior to and during the outbreak, saying it issued the alert four days before the confirmation of the first case.
“We have always acted with maximum speed, at the time that the City of Seville provided us with the infor-mation,” said Jesus Aguirre, councillor for health.
Listeriosis is a rare but potentially life-threatening disease. Healthy adults are likely to experience only mild infection, with flu-like symptoms or gastroenteritis