Value of teamwork: How Via Christi linked listeria infections to ice cream

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The current listeria outbreak in the U.S., linked to ice cream from Blue Bell Creameries, has affected 10 people in four states so far, but it all started when five patients in a Via Christi hospital in Kansas fell ill with listeriosis. Staff members at the hospital were the ones who linked the infections to contaminated ice cream, according to a report from KWCH.

Several things complicated finding the source of the outbreak, like not having the cases occur one after the other — they were spread out. Also, the incubation period for listeria is long.

"In the first couple cases that we saw, the patients had been in the hospital a shorter duration of time than the incubation period, so it was possible that it was somehow contracted before they came to the hospital but it was also possible that it was contracted after they arrived at the hospital," Maggie Hagan, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Via Christi, told KWCH.

Dr. Hagan, along with infection prevention staff and food services staff, worked together to pour over the effected patients' diets and records to find a connection. Eventually, they found the link when Blue Bell came in and asked that the hospital pull an item due to a quality issue, and food services notified the infection prevention team.

"She [food services director Wanda Reinking] kind of had notified me that there had been an issue with our ice cream product and that registered and rang a bell in my mind," said Karen Bally, Via Christi infection prevention coordinator.

After further investigation, Blue Bell ice cream was identified as the source of the infections.

Now, Blue Bell has recalled all of its products nationwide due to listeria.

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