WASHINGTON—For three days after Merrill Behnke ate the tainted Italian cheese—before she was admitted to Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue for 16 days, before she racked up $60,000 in medical bills and almost died—she felt fine.
On the fourth night, Behnke developed an intense headache. She awoke the next morning to severe body pains and a temperature of 102 degrees. A lumbar tap and a CT scan indicated meningitis. A test of her spinal fluid linked the illness to Listeria, a rare but deadly bacterium.