Spain issues international alert after country's biggest ever listeria outbreak
21 August 2019, 17:24 | Updated: 21 August 2019, 19:25
Spain has issued an international alert after the number affected by the country's biggest ever listeria outbreak rose to 150.
A 90-year-old woman has been killed by the infection as the health ministry said it was checking another 523 suspected cases of listeriosis.
The spread has sparked fears in Spain, which is visited by around 80 million tourists a year.
Listeriosis is usually caught from eating food containing listeria bacteria.
It can be found in many types of food but is mainly a problem with unpasteurised milk, soft cheeses and chilled ready-to-eat snacks like pre-packed sandwiches.
Most confirmed cases in Spain have been recorded in the southern region of Andalusia, where a packaged pork plant linked to the outbreak is situated.
But there have been other cases as far away as Catalonia in the northeast, where around 50 people remain in hospital.
José Miguel Cisneros, director of the infectious disease department at Seville's Virgen del Rocío Hospital, announced on Tuesday the first casualty since the outbreak was declared on 15 August.
Mr Cisneros said roughly half of the 114 people affected by the bacteria remain hospitalised.
Listeria usually causes mild illness but can be dangerous to pregnant women, 23 of whom are among those still in hospital.
It is also more dangerous to those with weakened immune systems.
Spain's health ministry has issued alerts to EU authorities and the World Health Organization over the outbreak.
The plant in question, owned by Seville-based Magrudis, was inspected by health authorities after lab tests showed the presence of listeria in one of its products.
Authorities have closed the pork meat supplier's plant and recalled all of its products.
The company has not responded to requests for comment.
Maria Luisa Carcedo, acting health health minister, said: "Obviously there was a failure to follow the established procedures.
"Now we need to carry out the inspections and investigations to figure out exactly where this failure took place."
In recent months, six people have been killed in a listeria outbreak in the UK after eating contaminated hospital food.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered a root and branch review of NHS food in June after the first five patient deaths.