Listeria monocytogenes is bacteria that causes the food borne illness listeriosis. It is a rare, yet potentially deadly, infection.
Listeria hangs out in soil, water and animals. And it has the noteworthy capability of growing in cold environments, i.e. your refrigerator.
Lesteriosis is caused by eating listeria monocytogenes contaminated food. Generally, vegetables can be contaminated from the soil, infected animals can contaminate meat and foods made with unpasteurized milk may contain listeria.
Some foods listeria is known to infect include:
- cold cuts
- deli meats
- soft cheeses
- raw hot dogs
- undercooked chicken
- unpasteurized milk products
- uncooked contaminated cabbage
Listeriosis has the capacity to make you seriously ill, unfortunately about 500 individuals die each year in the U.S. from a listeria monocytogenes infection.
The good news is that if you are healthy, a listeria exposure usually doesn’t cause illness. However, if you are pregnant or your immune system is weakened, your illness risk for listeriois drastically increases.
If you are pregnant and become infected with listria, you’ll likely only experience mild flu like symptoms. Your listeriosis issue lies with your unborn child. This infection during pregnancy can lead to:
Babies born with listeriosis can suffer serious effects from this listeria monocytogenes infection.
Special precautions also need to be taken to avoid listeriosis if your immune system is weak. Conditions and circumstances include:
Symptoms for a listeria infection may have you experiencing:
Your symptoms may not present for a few days, or sometimes weeks, after eating listeria contaminated food.
If your listeriosis should spread to your nervous system, your symptoms worsen to:
Symptoms of a listeria infection in a newborn involve:
Infants who survive a listeria infection may experience neurological damage and developmental delays.
If you’ve eaten a food that’s been recalled due to listeria, doesn’t mean it’ll cause listeriosis. Obviously, if you do experience any of its symptoms get in touch with your health care professional immediately.
Prevention of a listeria infection, especially if you are pregnant or have a weak immune system, is your best course of action. These food handling guidelines go a long way in preventing listeriosis:
- keep raw food separated
- avoid rare meat & seafood
- cook your food completely
- wash all raw vegetables before eating
- no unpasteurized milk & dairy products
- refrigerate, freeze perishables promptly
- keep refrigerator temp below 40 degrees
- thoroughly cook food from animal sources
- don’t eat refrigerated pates or meat spreads
- wash hands, utensils, food surfaces routinely
- don’t consume smoked seafood right out of the refrigerator
- reheat cooked, prepackaged foods to steaming hot temperatures ~ especially hot dogs, luncheon meats, deli meats
- avoid soft cheeses unless its made from pasteurized milk ~ feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, Mexican style cheeses (queso blanco, queso fresco, Panela)
Following these prevention measures strictly may not be as big a deal if you are healthy. All the same, listeria can infect any body ~ despite your health level.