On Feb. 22, Benjamin Silk, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a statement updating the total to 32. The CDC relies on state health departments to review reports of deaths and to judge whether listeria was the cause of death, according to the statement.
Those judgments can take time, said Lola Russell, a CDC senior press officer. Also, according to Silk’s statement, patients can die months after first becoming ill with listeria.
The combination of those two factors means the toll could continue rising.
“This count of outbreak-related deaths is not final and may still change,” Silk said in the statement.
As of a Dec. 8 CDC estimate, 146 people from 28 states had been sickened by the outbreak, which was traced to Granada, Colo.-based Jensen Farms. In addition to the people who died, a pregnant woman’s miscarriage was linked to the outbreak.
The number of sickened people could now be higher, Russell said. She did not know if CDC would issue a revised total.
As of Dec. 8, the average age of those who died was 83. The youngest person who died was 48, the oldest 96.
The average age of those sickened is 77. The youngest person sickened was less than 1 at the time and the oldest was 96.