MNA fighter’s Listeria death shines light on illness

Amy Frazier of KOIN 6 reports the death last week of MMA fighter Chael Sonnen‘s newborn daughter from a listeria infection shined a spotlight on the foodborne illness.

Brittany-Smith-Chael-Sonnen-girlfriend-pictures1Sonnen, a West Linn native described as “one of the most polarizing figures in MMA,” talked about his baby, Blauna, on his podcast. She was born 10 weeks prematurely, and both she and his wife, Brittany, were diagnosed with listeriosis, said MMA official Jeff Meyer.

The CDC said listeriosis is usually caused by eating contaminated food and primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems.

“It is worrisome in pregnancy because there is the chance a pregnant woman can pass the infection on to her fetus and that can cause potentially serious complications like miscarriage, still birth, preterm labor. So it can be serious in pregnancy,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines, the Deputy Health Officer for the Multnomah County Health Department.

“It’s an illness that would be hard to distinguish from others, so we talk about flu-like symptoms,” she said — fever, muscle aches, feeling tired, vomiting and diarrhea.

Vines said listeria is rare among pregnant women. Over the past 5 years, she said there’s been about 10 cases of listeria, “and of those, only 2 of those have been pregnant women.”

She suggested pregnant women steam hot dogs or deli meats, avoid unpasteurized cheeses and avoid cross-contamination from the water in the package to any other foods, like a salad.

“You’d want to avoid any unpasteurized milk and then any unpasteurized milk that’s used to make cheese,” Vines said.