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

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) – Sarasota Memorial Hospital is sounding the alarm for pregnant women after the Centers for Disease Control linked an outbreak of Listeria back to the Suncoast.

The CDC issued an alert Saturday warning customers to throw away products from Big Olaf Creamery in Sarasota and clean anything they touched. As of Sunday afternoon, one death and 22 hospitalizations have been attributed to this outbreak spanning across ten states.

Investigation details listed in the report described how investigators interviewed 17 people who got sick, 6 of whom claimed they ate Big Olaf ice cream, or that they ate ice cream from a location supplied by the Sarasota creamery. The investigation is ongoing, according to the CDC’s website.

Dr. Washington Hill, a maternal fetal medical specialist with Sarasota Memorial Hospital, spoke to news outlets in a zoom calling to emphasize Listeria can be a serious risk for expecting mothers. He said the mothers can catch flu-like symptoms or experience no symptoms, but it’s possible the baby can be infected and suffer severe consequences.

“There could be a miscarriage, a stillbirth or if the baby is born it can spend some time in the ICU,” he said.

However, we asked Hill how often mothers suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth after contracting Listeria and he said it’s “rare,” with the worst-case scenarios occurring in about 5% of these cases. Even still, he wants to make sure all pregnant women in the area are aware of the outbreak, so they can stay safe.

Hill is recommending that pregnant women who have eaten Big Olaf ice cream recently call their doctors whether they’re experiencing symptoms or not. The women with symptoms, he said, can get treatment, but they should not panic or rush to an emergency room.

As for men and women who aren’t pregnant, Hill said Listeria “is not really a serious disease” with those patients typically experiencing flu-like symptoms or digestion issues.

SMH was not able to explain why the CDC has connected Big Olaf to the outbreak, nor have they confirmed if any of the patients are from Sarasota or Manatee County.

Big Olaf Creamery is countering this claim. Rosie Peachy, a representative of the company, released a written statement explaining she doesn’t think the Listeria originated from this creamery. The full statement is as follows:

“For now it is only speculation as it is an ongoing investigation, our brand has not been confirmed to be linked to these cases, I am not sure why only Big Olaf is being mentioned and targeted. The original report we got from the Florida Department of Health on Friday July 1st, was that there are 23 cases reported, the first one reported was January 2022. 6 out of the 23 patients mentioned having consumed Big Olaf ice cream, but nothing has been proven. We have been cooperating with the Florida Department of Health, FDACS and the FDA as soon as we were informed about the situation. We have been transparent and have answered all their questions and provided them with all the information requested from us, as the health and well being of the public is our first priority.”

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

Copyright 2022 WWSB. All rights reserved.

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