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Manufacturer of Scopes Cited in Spread of LA 'Superbug' Releases Updated Disinfection Process

ChrisPole/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Olympus America, the company that manufactures the duodenoscopes that were cited in the spread of a superbug at a Los Angeles hospital in February, released an urgent safety notification regarding updated cleaning processes to ensure high levels of disinfection in between uses.

The new process, which consists of "revised manual cleaning and high level disinfection procedures," should be implemented "as soon as possible," the company says. Olympus recommends using a small bristle cleaning brush to clean the scopes. The company anticipates shipping these brushes to facilities by May 8. "Until your facility has received the brushes, you should continue to clean the...duodenoscope in accordance with the original cleaning instructions."

The new process also includes "additional recess flushing" and "forceps elevator raising/lowering steps" during precleaning and manual cleaning. Facilities are additionally advised to flush the scopes with alcohol.

The company says that the updated procedures were reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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Ebola Patient at NIH Upgraded from Critical to Serious Condition

Photo by Andrew Councill/MCT/MCT via Getty Images(BETHESDA, Md.) -- A patient being treated for the Ebola virus at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda was upgraded from critical to serious condition, the NIH said Thursday.

The NIH still did not share any additional details about the patient, who was admitted on March 12. The patient was volunteering at an Ebola treatment unit in Sierra Leone when they tested positive for the disease.

The patient is the second to receive treatment at the NIH Clinical Center. The first, Dallas nurse Nina Pham, contracted the disease while treating Thomas Eric Duncan. Pham was the first person to catch Ebola on U.S. soil in connection with the outbreak in West Africa. She was admitted to the NIH facility in October and later released Ebola-free.

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CDC Unveils New Anti-Smoking Ads Featuring Real Smokers

Credit: James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have launched a new set of anti-smoking ads featuring real smokers who are living with the long-term health effects of smoking and secondhand smoke exposure.

The "Tips From Former Smokers" campaign was first launched in 2012. "Since its launch," the CDC says, "the Tips campaign has featured compelling stories of former smokers living with smoking-related diseases and disabilities and the toll that smoking-related illnesses have taken on them."

In September 2013, the Lancet medical journal published an article saying that the Tips campaign has motivated about 1.6 million smokers to attempt to quit smoking, with at least 100,000 U.S. smokers expected to quit permanently as a result of the campaign.  

The CDC posted videos featuring 27 real people on their website. "I smoked and got macular degeneration," a woman named Marlene says in one of the videos. "So I don't see very well."

After describing the first time she received one of the medical procedures she goes through as a result of her disease, Marlene says she "went home and I felt miserable, and I said to myself, 'Why the hell did I ever smoke?'"

"I would never have smoked if I knew that I was gonna be going through this," she says.

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Blind Hawaii Woman Gets Bionic Eye to See Again

Fuse/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) -- A Honolulu woman who went blind two years ago will soon be able to see again thanks to her new bionic eye.

Surgeons at the Eye Surgery Center of Hawaii implanted the device on Tuesday into a 72-year-old Japanese-American woman who had gone blind two years ago due to an incurable hereditary disease called retinitis pigmentosa, said Dr. Gregg Kokame, who performed the operation. He told ABC News the hospital was not identifying the woman by name, but that she was the first person to receive the implant in the Asia Pacific region.

"She'll actually start to see motion, actually start to see somebody walk into the room and be able to see different shades of grey," Kokame said, explaining that she was totally blind and could perceive only some light before the four-hour surgery.

Kokame and his team implanted a microelectrode array on the surface of the woman's retina that connects wirelessly to a pair of glasses with a camera, he said. The glasses process images and transmit them to the implant, which then sends that information to the woman's optic nerve and onto her brain.

The device will not help the woman to see color or fine detail, but as the software advances, he said the implant will still be able to communicate with it.

The woman will heal for two weeks before Kokame and his team can turn the device on for the first time. He said she'll be able to see her loved ones first because he's sure they'll want to be right there with her.

"She was in very good spirits," he said. "She's a very pleasant, very strong lady. She's looking forward to having the implant turned on."

The device, which is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, costs $144,000, but it was covered by Medicare for this patient, Kokame said.

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Dallas Woman Behind Bars for Allegedly Giving Illegal Butt Injections

Dallas County Sheriff's Department(DALLAS) -- A Dallas woman has been arrested for allegedly administering to patients illegal cosmetic procedures -- butt injections -- without a medical license, according to police.

Denise Rochelle Ross, known as "Wee Wee," turned herself in to authorities Wednesday because she had been wanted for practicing medicine without a license, according to the Dallas Police Department. Ross' bond was set at $500,000, according to court records. Her alleged accomplice, Jimmy Joe Clark, is still at large.

Ross was being held on $50,000 bond, and police did not know if she had yet entered a plea in the case.

According to the arrest affidavit, Ross, 43, allegedly made an appointment with a "patient" over the phone who agreed to pay $520 for her first butt injection session. At the appointment, Ross allegedly injected a substance into one buttock and Clark allegedly injected it into the other, but they were vague about what they were doing when they explained the procedure, the affidavit alleges. Ross allegedly said it was water-based liquid saline and then said it was Hydro Gel.

The patient "felt intense pain and was told to be quiet after screaming in agony," the affidavit says. Afterward, Ross and Clark allegedly closed the injection holes with super glue and cotton balls to keep any of the liquid from coming out. They gave the patient two tubes of the glue to take home.

Dr. Scot Glasberg, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said illegal cosmetic procedures are on the rise among people hoping for a Kim Kardashian-looking rear end while looking to save money.

They can be harmful because often they're not done with medical-grade silicon, but rather with the type of silicon used in construction. The most common side effects of these underground procedures are pain from scar tissue and infection, but sometimes the patient experiences excessive bleeding or the injectable material travels through the blood stream to the lungs, he said.

"If you walk into a garage or a basement or a dimly lit little room somewhere, your natural instinct should be to walk away, to run away," Glasberg said. "The downside of a little saving on cost is, potentially, your life."

Attempts by ABC News to reach Ross' family members were unsuccessful.

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NASA Studies Kelly Twins to Understand Space's Impact on Human Body

Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — NASA will examine how a year of zero gravity will affect the human body when Scott Kelly blasts off for an extended stay on the International Space Station.

But NASA isn’t just going to look at Kelly and fellow astronaut Mikhail Kornienko. The team also will be following Scott Kelly’s identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, as an earthbound control group.

Officials hope to understand what exactly happens to a human body hundreds of miles above Earth's surface.

“We need to figure out how people are going to live in space for really long periods of time, especially if we want to send somebody to Mars or maybe we want to build a base on the moon," Mark Kelly told ABC News' David Kerley.

There are a number of studies being conducted, with collaborations among various universities, including Stanford University, Colorado State University, Johns Hopkins University and Cornell University.

The astronauts will be subject to a battery of tests looking at things such as muscle mass, bone loss and even the shape of their eyeballs. In a previous NASA study, some astronauts reported a change in vision after the physical shape of their eyeballs changed.

NASA medical officer Dr. Steven Gilmore said being able to compare samples between identical twins would be helpful for the research.

“You can look at, in detail, how the genes and the proteins that are made from them change as a result of this unique environment," he told ABC News.

Researchers will look at how genes go "on and off" during space flight and if being away from Earth in the vacuum of space affects proteins in the body.

NASA wants to know how the stressors unique to space flight could change the body. This means seeing how microgravity, confinement in the space station and radiation changes affects the proteins and metabolic systems in the body.

NASA also wants to discover how blood flow changes -- a result of microgravity -- can have unexpected effects on the body. One hypothesis is that astronauts' eyes change shape in space because blood volume on their upper body increases without gravity.

“Your nose gets stuffy, your eyes get a little bit of pressure,” said Jennifer Fogarty, a clinical transitional scientist in a NASA video. "You feel like you have a really bad head cold."

The study results could be key in finding a way to send humans to Mars to create a permanent colony on the moon.

“That's one of the things that make it exciting and something I’m really happy to be a part of," Scott Kelly said on ABC News' This Week.

Scott Kelly is scheduled to lift off Friday for his year in space.

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What Drew Barrymore Said About Her Post-Baby Body

Peter Kramer/NBC(LOS ANGELES) -- For every star who seemingly bounces back to her pre-pregnancy size weeks after giving birth, there's Drew Barrymore to keep it real.

"After making two babies, holy cow, does your body do some crazy stuff! It’s hard to stay positive and love yourself," the 40-year-old actress admitted about her post-baby body in Glamour magazine. "You feel like a kangaroo with a giant pouch; everything’s saggy and weird. But you think about how beautiful it is that you’re able to make children."

She added, "When I lose sight of that, I exercise, read Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, and spend time with my kids. Then I start to see things that are bigger than myself."

Barrymore isn't afraid to look less than perfect in public, either.

"You don't always have to look stunning on Instagram," she told Glamour. "I've been makeup-less, pregnant, and stuffing food in my face in many pictures; that makes it all the more exciting when I do do something more attractive. I don't like it when everyone looks so perfect all the time. Where's the humor in that?"

Barrymore is married to Will Kopelman, with whom she has two children -- Olive, 2, and Frankie, 11 months.

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Indiana Governor Declares Public Health Emergency to Battle Worst HIV Outbreak in State History

iStock/Thinkstock(INDIANAPOLIS) — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Thursday declared a public health emergency for an Indiana county battling what is believed to be the worst HIV outbreak in the state's history.

Pence said 79 cases have been confirmed, and, with more testing underway, "We expect that number to go up."

The cases have either been found in or are connected to Scott County, near the Kentucky border.

The state health department has attributed the outbreak to an opioid painkiller called Opana. It's believed to be the worst HIV outbreak in the state history, a spokeswoman at the Scott County Health Department said.

"For years we've been fighting Opana in our county," said Brittany Combs, public health nurse at Scott County Health Department. "[Doctors] won't give [prescriptions] for Opana unless absolutely necessary. Our doctors aren't writing for it. It's coming from out of county."

Combs said Opana is a painkiller normally given in pill form to patients, and it is used as "last resort" for pain relief. People recreationally using the drug often crush the pill and inject it for a longer-lasting high, according to Combs.

Everyone who has tested positive for HIV has admitted to intravenous drug use, although some have also had sex with other users, meaning it is not always clear how the virus was spread, according to Combs.

A public awareness campaign to alert residents about the increase in HIV cases has started in the region.

In addition to local and state health officials, the CDC has sent a team to the area to assist with the response.


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Leah Still's Cancer in Remission, NFL Player Dad Says

Oleg Nikishin/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images(CINCINNATI) -- The cancer-stricken 4-year-old daughter of Cincinnati Bengals player Devon Still is in remission, the football player announced on Wednesday.

Doctors diagnosed Leah Still with stage 4 neuroblastoma on June 2, but they told Devon Still on Wednesday that Leah was in remission, he said on his Instragram account, adding that it was the best day of his life.

"After 296 days of day dreaming about what it would feel like to hear the doctors say my daughter is in remission, I finally know the feeling," he wrote. "Funny thing is there is really no way of describing it because I never knew this feeling existed. When I look at my daughter all I can do is smile and hug her."

 

A photo posted by Devon Still (@man_of_still75) on Mar 25, 2015 at 1:29pm PDT

 

Still, 25, a defensive tackle, had originally been cut from the Bengals roster, but once the team learned his daughter had stage 4 cancer, they re-signed him to their practice squad. He has since been placed on the active roster.

Fans have rallied around Leah, who was part of a ceremony in December in which the Bengals presented the Cincinnati Children's Hospital with a check for more than $1 million to go toward pediatric cancer research. She also walked the runway at the New York Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in February.

Still said on Wednesday that he's proud of how hard Leah fought and "kicked cancer's butt." He thanked her doctors at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the Bengals and everyone who supported Leah and sent her letters of encouragement over the last year.

Leah isn't done with treatment yet, but Still said he knows his "little warrior" will power through.

"She has made an impact on me and on the world, at the age of four, that I can only wish to make in a lifetime," he wrote.

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Brittany Maynard's Family Releases Video in Support of Right-to-Die Legislation

Compassion & Choices/YouTube(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Nearly four months after Brittany Maynard's death, her family has released a video of her testimony for a right-to-die bill in California. She recorded it before her death, and it was presented Wednesday to the California legislature ahead of a Senate committee vote.

Maynard, a 29-year-old newlywed from California, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in early 2014, but had to move to Oregon for the legal right to end her own life. Oregon is one of five states that gives patients the right to obtain a prescription to die in their sleep. California and New York are considering adopting similar laws.

"I am heartbroken that I had to leave behind my home, my community, and my friends in California, but I am dying and I refuse to lose my dignity," she says into the camera in the video filmed weeks before her Nov. 1 death. "I refuse to subject myself and my family to purposeless, prolonged pain and suffering at the hands of an incurable disease."

She died at home surrounded by family after spending 11 months completing her bucket list. Toward the end of her life, she said in one of the videos that she could feel herself getting sicker. One day, she had two seizures and couldn't say her husband's name, she said.

In her legislative testimony, she said some people suggested that she do palliative or terminal sedation instead, in which a person is placed in a drug-induced coma and deprived of nutrients and water until death comes on its own. But she feared she would linger and be minimally conscious and in pain.

"Achieving some control over my passing is very important to me. Knowing that I can leave this life with dignity allows me to focus on living," she said. "It has provided me enormous peace of mind."

California is considering the End of Life Option Act, which would allow terminally ill adults who are mentally competent to request medication that would allow them to die in their sleep, according to the nonprofit group Compassion and Choices, which advocates for death with dignity.

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Optimism May Be Key to Better Heart Health

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — If you're one of those Gloomy Gus-types with a perpetual dark cloud hanging over your head, knock it off or all those cheery, come-what-may kind of folks will outlive you.

A University of Illinois study suggests people who maintain positive attitudes are destined for better heart health.

Lead author Rosalba Hernandez and other researchers surveyed 5,100 participants ages 45-to-84 regarding their physical health, mental health and levels of optimism. The study found that people with the sunniest outlook on life were twice as likely to have better cardiovascular health than their pessimistic counterparts.

On top of that, the most optimistic of the optimists were 76 percent more likely to have total health scores in what's considered the ideal range.

Whether optimism predicates better health or vice versa, these people also exercised more, were less likely to smoke and also have healthier body mass indexes than those with deep cynicism about life.

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Indiana Gov. Will Declare 'Public Health' Emergency in County After HIV Spike

iStock/Thinkstock(INDIANAPOLIS) -- The governor of Indiana will declare a “public health disaster emergency” after a spike of HIV cases in southern Indiana has alarmed health officials.

 

I will declare a public health emergency for Scott County in the next 24 hours pic.twitter.com/WJFN2nKL0G

— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) March 25, 2015



Gov. Mike Pence's planned declaration comes after Scott County has seen 71 confirmed and seven preliminary positive cases of HIV. While nationwide HIV is primarily spread through sexual intercourse, this outbreak has been fueled by intravenous drug use, according to the Indiana Health Department.

"I am deeply troubled by this outbreak, and stopping it is a top priority for our department," State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams said in a statement last week. "We are engaging local, state, and national partners to determine where we can most effectively focus our efforts. Extra care is being taken to invest resources in getting people off drugs and into treatment, since drug abuse is the clear driving force behind this outbreak."

On Wednesday, Pence traveled to Scott County to talk to local health officials about the increase in cases and what can be done about it.

 

 

Meeting w/ Scott Co. local officials & community members regarding the HIV outbreak pic.twitter.com/Sqx9HSuEMt

— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) March 25, 2015



A team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been dispatched to the region to help local and state health officials. The team, including two medical doctors and an epidemiologist, will work with state and local health officials to try and combat the rising HIV cases.

A public awareness campaign to alert residents about the increase in HIV cases has started in the region.

According to the state health department the outbreak is mainly related to the intravenous drug use of a prescription opioid painkiller called Opana, although some people reported that unprotected sex also led to infection.

"Until now, everybody thought they could just do that at will and there was no consequence to it. Now we see so many people with HIV that never knew they had it," Scott County Sheriff Dan McClain told ABC News affiliate WHAS-TV in Louisville, Kentucky, about the outbreak that started in mid-December.

HIV experts say they hope that the state will consider allowing a needle exchange program to help combat the growing spread of HIV infections.

Anthony Hayes, managing director of public affairs and policy at Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York, said that New York’s needle exchange program has helped to significantly reduce HIV infections through intravenous drug use.

"Research has shown over and over again that syringe exchange reduces risky behavior," said Hayes. "What needs to happen is a compassionate reaction to what is a clearly a public health problem."

According to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the National Institute of Health found that HIV rates dropped by 30 percent in areas with safe needle exchanges.

"If you clamp down too hard in an uncompassionate way...then what you end up doing is [driving] people who are using injection drugs underground," he said. "Which will only increase this behavior."

 

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Simple Rice Cooking Method May Drastically Cut Calorie Count, Scientists Say

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A simple method for cooking rice could someday reduce its calorie count by as much as 60 percent, the authors of a new research study say.

The technique involves boiling the rice with a small amount of coconut oil, placing it in the fridge for several hours to cool it down and then microwaving it briefly.

"The hypothesis is that we turn more of the starch into an indigestible form of starch, which reduces the amount of calories the body will absorb," Dr. Pushparajah Thavarajva, the researcher from the College of Chemical Sciences in Sri Lanka who supervised the study, told ABC News.

The scientists looked at 38 varieties of Sri Lankan rice and chose to test the one with the lowest amount of naturally occurring starch resistant to digestion, explained Sudhair James, the graduate student who presented the preliminary research earlier this week at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Denver. After trying out a variety of cooking approaches, they found adding oil during cooking and cooling the rice down worked best, he said.

“The beautiful piece is there was a fifteen-fold increase in the amount of resistant starch after using this method,” James said in a news conference Wednesday. “This led to a 10- to 15-percent calorie reduction.”

Starch molecules are shaped like doughnuts, explained Thavarajva. The added oil seeps into the holes of the molecules during cooking to help block digestive enzymes. Cooling the rice then allows the rice molecules to rearrange and pack together more tightly to increase their resistance to digestion, he explained.

The technique shows such promise, James said, that one day it might be used in commercial preparations and could be a low-cost way to help fight obesity and type 2 diabetes.

“We as scientists believe that if we are going to do this process on the best varieties and if this method is going to work this could be a massive breakthrough,” James said. “We could lower the calories in rice by 50 to 60 percent.”

But Thavarajva was quick to point out that the cooking technique will not be effective with all varieties of rice. He said that they are not clear why it works with some types but not others and that the team needed to do more research to find out how well their experiment translated into the real world.

“We know that it will increase the amount of resistant starch and reduce calorie count, that’s true. But it might not lead to any real calorie reduction benefits depending upon how the starch is used by the gut bacteria,” he said.

There is precedence for this theory, Thavarajva added. Work done on potatoes at Harvard University and studies at Indian Universities using legumes and cereals noted similar starch-and-calorie reductions using similar preparations, he said.

“Could we do it with other starches like bread?” he asked. “That’s the real question.”

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Why Legendary Bodybuilder Who Died with Almost Zero Body Fat Lives On

sportnahrung-engel.de(NEW YORK) -- Austrian bodybuilder Andreas Munzer, who died 19 years ago this month, remains both the gold standard and a cautionary tale for men striving for the ripped, lean look the sport demands.

Although it could not be confirmed, he appears to have died from multiple organ failure, the likely result of years of alleged anabolic steroid abuse. He was 31, and easily recognizable from the images that have gone viral in recent days.

Munzer’s autopsy revealed he had almost 0-percent body fat, the legend goes. Such a small amount of body fat could have hastened his demise, experts say.

“You need body fat for cellular function, energy use and to pad the joints and organs,” said Carol Garber, professor of movement sciences at Columbia University in New York City. “Having too little can lead to nutritional deficiencies, electrolyte imbalances and malfunction of the heart, kidney and other organs.”

Men require at least 3-percent body fat and women at least 12 percent in order for the body to function properly, Garber said. Below that is where you start to see serious health problems. Sometimes it leads to organ failure and death, she added.

But despite the risks, Munzer’s pictures and profile frequently go viral on bodybuilding forums all these years later because of the sports’ perpetual obsession with stripping every last ounce of adipose tissue from their body, according to Brian Washington, commissioner of the United States Bodybuilding Federation.

“Percentage of body fat is a major issue with bodybuilders,” Washington said. “They devote a lot of their efforts and money on products to go as low as they can possibly go.”

Others agree.

“There are still some bodybuilders obsessed about their numbers who take their body fat percentage readings on a regular basis readers,” said Louis Zwick, the producer of Musclemania, a bodybuilding and fitness competition production company, adding that even those who don’t care about an exact percentage do care about getting as ripped as possible for competition.

Zwick, who said he was part of the film crew that taped Munzer’s last competition before his death 10 days later, said the Austrian was very lean but doubts his body was completely absent of fat.

“I’ve never really seen anyone who really had zero body fat,” he said. “You just can’t be. You wouldn’t survive.”

But it is possible to get down to so little body fat it becomes unmeasurable by standard methods, Columbia’s Garber said. Pinching the skin to measure the thickness of fat just below the surface is the most common way of measuring body fat percentage, she said. It wouldn’t be precise enough to estimate the degree of accuracy needed to make such a claim, she said.

The average bodybuilder is probably between 3- and 5-percent body fat, at least during competition season, Musclemania producer Zwick estimated. Some cycle up in weight during the off-season but as the sport has moved toward a more natural look in the past decade, many strive to stay in shape all year long, he said.

Munzer, Zwick said, was leaner than most. He was always muscled up and stripped of fat.

“That’s why he’s still a legend today,” he said.

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Amy's Kitchen Recall: What to Know About Spinach Listeria Outbreak

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Amy's Kitchen and at least three other organic food companies have recalled products this week because of listeria found in organic spinach, which may cause you to think twice before you reach for foods containing Popeye the Sailor Man's favorite ingredient.

Here's what you need to know:

What was recalled?

Amy's Kitchen, which makes organic products, recalled nearly 74,000 cases of them because of the listeria scare this week. For a full list of which products and what dates were on them, click here.

Three other companies -- Rising Moon Organics, Superior Foods, Inc., and Twin City Foods, Inc. -- also recalled products because of contaminated spinach from an organic supplier. Twin City Foods said its products were sold at Wegmans Supermarkets, Inc., which also issued a separate recall because the spinach was sold under the Wegmans brand name.

Who supplied the greens?

The Food and Drug Administration said its policy is not to name the supplier or comment on whether it is investigating, but Coastal Green LLC in Oxnard, California, told ABC News it supplied leafy greens to all three companies.

Coastal Green said it notified the Food and Drug Administration as soon as it detected listeria during routine testing and realized some of its shipped product may have been contaminated, said spokesman Paul Fanelli. Coastal Green processes organic and conventional vegetables and is working with the FDA to resolve the listeria problem, he said.

"We're in the middle of an investigation here as to what the root cause was of the listeria," Fanelli said. "Once we determine what that is, we'll change our policies and our procedures accordingly."

Who got sick?

There have been no reported listeria illnesses tied to any of these products, but Wegmans and Twin City Foods said they issued recalls to be cautious.

Amy's Kitchen, Rising Moon Organics, and Superior Foods did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

What is listeria monocytogenes?

Listeria is a bacterium that lives in animals' digestive tracts but can cause an illness called listeriosis when consumed by humans. This happens when fruit and vegetable crops are contaminated by animal waste. That can happen because of tainted irrigation or wash water, or because animals got into the field.

"It's very difficult to wash them so completely and disinfect them so completely that they become completely clean and sterile," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, explaining that this is one of the reasons it is recommended to give vegetables an additional wash at home before consuming them.

What are the symptoms?

Listeria usually results in a fever, muscle aches and gastrointestinal symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's especially harmful to older adults, newborns and pregnant women, but healthy people may consume the bacteria without getting sick, according to the CDC.

Listeriosis can prompt dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea and can be especially harmful to people with underlying health conditions, Schaffner said. The bacterium can also get into the bloodstream, he said.

Laboratory tests can confirm diagnosis, and doctors will usually treat with antibiotics and fluids, he said.

How serious is listeriosis?

The deadly bacteria sickens about 1,600 people each year and kills about 260 people, according to the CDC. But healthy people who consume it don't always become ill.

Why is listeria problematic?

If food hasn't been heated thoroughly, listeria can live on even after it's been cooked, Schaffner said. And unlike other bacteria, listeria can continue reproducing in cold temperatures such as a refrigerator and doesn't die in a freezer, he said.

"This is a rascal," he said. "It may create an infectious dose even though you've kept the food in the fridge."

What does the outbreak show us?

Food safety lawyer Bill Marler said the listeria outbreak illustrates how complex the food system has become, but that routine testing is effective.

"Products like frozen spinach travel all over the country and make it into multiple brands," he said. "It does make doing a recall a challenge, and if an outbreak [occurs, it can be] difficult to pinpoint the cause."

"On the plus side of the recall, it shows that testing of products [for harmful bacteria] works and being transparent with that information, as required by the FDA, will save lives," Marler added.

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