Hospital patient, 38, who ate a sandwich infected with listeria was so seriously ill she feared she might die as health officials face claims of covering up the full scale of the outbreak linked to the pre-packed meals
- Tanya Marston, 38, feared she might die after eating an infected sandwich
- She was in the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent for a month as a patient
- Mrs Marston’s case will raise concern that more people may have been affected
Health officials were last night facing claims of covering up the full scale of the NHS listeria sandwich crisis after a new case emerged in Kent.
Tanya Marston, 38, told The Mail on Sunday how she needed treatment with strong antibiotics and feared she might die after eating an infected sandwich during a stay as an inpatient at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.
On Friday, Public Health England (PHE) announced that listeria had appeared in six seriously ill in-patients.
Ms Marston ate chicken mayonnaise, ham and cheese sandwiches during a month-long stay at the Kent hospital where she was being treated for Crohn’s disease. On May 27, her temperature suddenly rose and doctors sent her for a blood test
Three of the individuals, who were being treated at hospitals in Manchester and Liverpool, had later died.
But last night PHE refused to confirm or deny that Ms Marston’s case had been included in the figures.
All those who fell ill had eaten sandwiches prepared by Staffordshire-based firm The Good Food Chain, which supplies 43 of 135 NHS hospital trusts across England.
The primary source has been traced to North Country Cooked Meats from Salford, Greater Manchester, which supplies meat to The Good Food Chain.
All those who fell ill had eaten sandwiches prepared by Staffordshire-based firm The Good Food Chain, which supplies 43 of 135 NHS hospital trusts across England
Ms Marston ate chicken mayonnaise, ham and cheese sandwiches during a month-long stay at the Kent hospital where she was being treated for Crohn’s disease.
On May 27, her temperature suddenly rose and doctors sent her for a blood test.
Despite that, Ms Marston wanted to go home and doctors discharged her on May 29.
But the following day, she was called by a consultant who told her: ‘You need to come back in. Your blood test is showing you have listeria.’
Ms Marston, a mental health charity volunteer and mother of a 17-year-old son, was successfully treated with antibiotics.
Last night, she said: ‘I’m so grateful my temperature spiked. If it hadn’t, I’d have gone home without any blood test and the listeria might not have been spotted in time. I could have died.’
She said that Dr Paul Stevens, medical director at William Harvey, told her that medics believed her illness was linked to a cluster of listeria cases in the North West.
The primary source has been traced to North Country Cooked Meats from Salford, Greater Manchester, which supplies meat to The Good Food Chain [File photo]
An official letter of apology from Dr Stevens said that genetic testing ‘has confirmed that the type of listeria [found in her blood] was identical to that already isolated from sandwiches supplied to our caterers by The Good Food Chain.
This obviously makes it most likely that you acquired the bug from sandwiches given to you by the hospital.’
He also wrote that there was ‘a national investigation under way because we are just one of several NHS organisations supplied by The Good Food Chain’.
Given the wide distribution of The Good Food Chain products and that listeria has an incubation period of up to 70 days, Ms Marston’s case will raise concern that more people may have been affected.
If not spotted early, the bacteria can spread quickly, causing sepsis and meningitis. It is fatal in 20 to 30 per cent of cases and particularly dangerous for the elderly, pregnant women and those already ill.
Last night, Ms Marston said: ‘It looks like health officials have tried to play this outbreak down.
‘If they are being evasive, that makes me a bit angry.’
WHAT IS LISTERIOSIS?
Most people that catch listeriosis, caused by bacteria called listeria, will only experience mild symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhoea.
Other symptoms of the infection can include a high temperature of 38C or above, aches and pains, and chills, according to the NHS.
Listeria monocytogenes (stock) as found in the pre-packaged food sold at hospitals
However, more serious complications can develop in those with weakened immune systems, babies, the elderly and pregnant women.
Many foods can harbour listeria, but it is usually found in unpasteurised milk, soft cheeses and ready-to-eat foods, such as prepacked sandwiches.
Listeria is widespread in the environment and can be found in raw food and soil, and in the droppings of many mammals, birds, and fish.
Around 180 cases of listeriosis are confirmed every year in England, according to figures. It strikes around 850 annually in the US.
HOW CAN YOU AVOID LISTERIOSIS?
- wash your hands regularly with soap and water
- wash fruit and vegetables before eating them
- store ready-to-eat foods as recommended by the manufacturer
- make sure all hot food is steaming hot all the way through