Listeriosis is a food-borne bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, an important disease because while most healthy people are unaffected by listeriosis, immunosuppressed people (diabetic, HIV positive, etc) and the elderly or newborns are at risk of death from a Listeria infection. Listeriosis may also infect the fetus in pregnant women causing death, miscarriage, or preterm birth. Listeriosis may also occur in animals such as ruminants (sheep, goats, cattle) and, occasionally, other animal species.
Most infections are caused by eating contaminated food, but the bacteria can also be spread by inhalation or direct contact. The bacteria Listeria monocytogenes can be primarily found in soil and water, where it may contaminate vegetable produce. Listeria bacteria can survive and thrive in refrigerator temperatures and food with high salt concentrations.
Listeria can contaminate many food. In fact, back in 2011, the source of the food-borne disease outbreak involving Listeria was traced back to whole cantaloupes from a farm in Colorado. However, the Listeria bacterium is usually found in:
It usually takes anytime between 3 days to 2 months before signs and symptoms show after eating contaminated food. Early signs and symptoms of listeriosis includes fever, muscle pain, nausea, and diarrhea. If the infection has spread to the nervous system, the signs and symptoms may be headache, loss of balance, confusion, stiff neck, and convulsions.
In newborn babies, the signs and symptoms may be difficult to detect. It may include irritability, no or little interest in feeding, fever, and vomiting.
Be sure to watch out for any signs or symptoms of illness if you’ve eaten a food that has been recalled due to a listeria outbreak. Seek a doctor or emergency care immediately if you experience any signs or symptoms listed above.
Listeriosis is treated according to the severity of the signs and symptoms. Due to its deadly nature, it is treated with intravenous antibiotics. Treatment may take up to 4 weeks if the central nervous system is infected. Usually patients are hospitalized to receive treatment.
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