What is Listeriosis? What You Need to Know

Listeriosis is food poisoning caused by eating foods contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium. In pregnant women, the infection can result in miscarriage, premature delivery, serious infection of the new born, or even stillbirth.

Listeriosis Affects Mainly:

  • Pregnant women
  • New born babies
  • The elderly, and adults with impaired immune systems.

Healthy adults and children sometimes are infected with Listeriosis, but they rarely become seriously ill. Babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers eat contaminated food during pregnancy.

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What Causes Listeriosis?

The Listeria monocytogenes bacteria is found in soil and water. According to research, vegetables can become contaminated from the soil or from manure used as fertilizer. Animals can carry the bacteria and can contaminate meats and dairy products. Processed foods, such as soft cheeses and cold cuts, can be contaminated after processing. Unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk can be contaminated.

What Are the Symptoms of Listeriosis?

The symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, and sometimes nausea or diarrhoea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur. But infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness.

How is Listeriosis Diagnosed?

Listeriosis is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical exam. Doctors will normally ask you questions about your symptoms, foods you have recently eaten, and your work and home environments. A blood test or spinal fluid test may be done to confirm the diagnosis.

How is Listeriosis Treated?

Research says a healthy person who is not pregnant typically does not need treatment. Symptoms will usually go away within a few weeks. If you are pregnant and get listeriosis, antibiotics can often prevent infection of the fetus or newborn.

How Can Listeriosis be Prevented?

Research has shown that you can prevent listeriosis by practicing safe food handling.

  • Shop safely-Bag raw meat, poultry, or fish separately from other food items. Drive home immediately after finishing your shopping so that you can store all foods properly.
  • Prepare your foods safely-Wash your hands before and after handling food. Also, wash them after using the bathroom or changing diapers. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables by rinsing them well with running water.
  • Store your foods safely-Cook, refrigerate, or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and ready-to-eat foods within 2 hours. Make sure your refrigerator is set at 40°F (4°C) or colder. But it is said that listeria can grow in the refrigerator, so clean up any spills in your refrigerator, especially juices from hot dogs, raw meat, or poultry.
  • Cook your foods safely– Do not eat undercooked hamburger, and be aware of the risk of food poisoning from raw fish (including sushi), clams, and oysters.
  • Serve your foods safely– Keep cooked hot foods hot [140°F (60°C) or above] and cold foods cold [40°F (4°C) or below].
  • Follow labels on food packaging-Food packaging labels provide information about when to use the food and how to store it. Getting used to reading food labels and following safety instructions will reduce your chance of becoming ill with food poisoning.

If you are not sure of whether food is safe, don’t eat it. Reheating contaminated food will not make it safe. Don’t taste suspicious food. It may smell and look fine but still may not be safe to eat.

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