Listeriosis is a foodborne illness and is caused from the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The symptoms suffered are similar to the flu and include muscle aches, fever, nausea and/or diarrhea. Other symptoms include confusion, headache, loss of balance, stiff neck and/or convulsions.
People with weak immune systems, infants and the elderly are most susceptible to becoming severely ill from this infection. Pregnant women are also at a higher risk and most commonly suffer flu-like symptoms that are mild. However, there is a high probability of miscarriage, premature birth, infection in newborns or stillbirth. Listeria can infect healthy adults and children but will rarely become a severe infection.
Pregnant women who promptly receive antibiotics will often prevent the infection from being spread to the baby. Babies who already have listeriosis will receive the same antibiotics as adults. However, physicians may use a combination of antibiotics until the diagnosis is confirmed. Be aware that deaths have occurred from listeriosis infections, even with immediate treatment. Death is more likely in those with weakened immune systems, other severe medical conditions and the elderly.
Foods can become contaminated from soil and water, which is already contaminated. Some ready-to-eat foods are contaminated after being cooked but before packaging. This is pretty scary to think about, as we all buy many ready-to-eat foods. The following explains some ways we can prevent listeriosis infection.
Thoroughly washing our raw vegetables before consuming will greatly diminish the possibility of Listeria. Also, and we all should know this one, thoroughly cooking raw meats is an excellent way to avoid listeriosis. Basically, we need to be clean. By that I mean, washing our hands after handling raw vegetables or meats, washing utensils after we use them on the raw vegetables and meats and keeping raw meats separate from everything else. Ready-to-eat foods that have been left to sit for too long have an increased risk of Listeria, so consuming these as soon as possible is another way to avoid it.
The previously stated precautions will help in avoiding listeriosis. This can be a very severe infection and if one suspects they have listeriosis, please see a doctor as soon as possible. A lumbar puncture may be done to obtain spinal fluid to culture for bacteria. For those who are pregnant, a blood test is the best way find out if one’s symptoms are due to listeriosis.