The latest data from the CDC shows as of August 2, a total of 25 people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria have been reported from 11 states. Thirteen sick people are residents of Florida and 10 reported traveling to Florida before getting sick. Illnesses started on dates ranging from January 24, 2021, to June 24, 2022.
Doctors believe that number is likely much higher, because the symptoms of listeria resemble other illnesses.
"What probably actually happened here is that there are a lot more cases of listeria that were part of this outbreak with that people didn't actually know. So listeria can cause a disease that looks an awful lot like coronavirus or looks like influenza," Dr. Jill Roberts, USF Foodborne Illnesses professor, said.
Last month, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) collected samples of ice cream and environmental samples from the ice cream production area at the Big Olaf Creamery facility in Sarasota. FDACS says whole genome sequencing identified the outbreak strain in the samples collected from the ice cream and the environment.
"But to have that sort of definitive now, I think, gives everyone a sense that, you know, that Big Olaf is the source of this really unfortunate outbreak," Bill Marler with The Food Safety Law Firm said.
Marler represents the family of 79-year-old Mary Billman of Illinois. In a lawsuit filed against Big Olaf, the family alleges less than two weeks after she ate ice cream from Big Olaf's Creamery she died.
"The reality is this all this could have been prevented by simple cleanliness, and that just didn't happen," Marler said.
FDACS has issued a stop order and Big Olaf Creamery LLC is not currently producing ice cream.