The Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) urges the city’s Hispanic community to avoid eating unpasteurized (raw) dairy products such as cheeses after receiving reports of two cases of brucellosis.

HDHHS’ investigation indicates that unpasteurized cheese imported from Mexico was most likely responsible for the illnesses of a 29-year-old pregnant woman and a 14-year-old boy whose families purchased the food from door-to-door vendors.

The cheese is known in the Hispanic community as queso fresco.

The woman and the boy are unrelated but live in nearby apartment complexes. They were hospitalized after becoming ill in March, but have been discharged.    

Brucellosis, caused by bacteria, can result in a range of symptoms similar to the flu including fever, sweats, headaches, back pains and physical weakness.

Severe infections of the central nervous systems or lining of the heart may occur. It can also cause long-lasting or chronic symptoms that include recurrent fevers, joint pain and fatigue.
Those who consume unpasteurized products are also at risk of developing listeriosis, a serious illnesses that can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery and babies born with the life-threatening infection.

Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches and diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms may also include headache, stiff neck confusion and loss of balance or convulsions.

Those at high risk of infection with brucellosis and listeriosis are pregnant women, newborns and people with weakened immune systems.

This news release was issued on April 14, 2006.