What is listeriosis?

Listeriosis is a zoonotic food poisoning caused by eating food contaminated with Listeriamonocytogenes. In pregnant women, infection can lead to miscarriage, serious infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth.

The disease mainly affects pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, as well as people with a damaged immune system. Healthy people and children sometimes carry Listeriamonocytogenes, but they rarely become seriously ill. Babies can be born with the disease if their mothers consumed contaminated food during pregnancy.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include fever, muscle aches and sometimes nausea or diarrhea. If the infection spreads and affects the immune system, other signs such as headache, neck stiffness, confusion, loss of balance or convulsions may occur.

In infected pregnant women, the disease proceeds like the flu. The period from exposure to the bacteria to the onset of symptoms, if any, is between 4 and 45 days.

What are the causes?

Listeriamonocytogenesis an extremely resistant bacterium that is most commonly found in soil and water. The main sources of infection are most often wild and domestic animals, and an already ill person is not a source. The bacteria are shed from the body of the infected person or animal through milk, eggs, feces, secretions from the salivary glands or from the nose.

  • Vegetables can be contaminated by soil or manure that is used to enrich the soil.
  • Animals may be carriers of the bacteria, increasing the likelihood of infection when consuming milk or milk products.
  • Processed foods such as sausages and soft cheeses can potentially be contaminated during their processing.
  • Unpasteurized milk or foods made from raw milk can also be a source of infection to humans.

Treatment of listeriosis

A healthy person who is not pregnant usually does not need treatment and symptoms and complaints resolve within a few weeks .

If you are pregnant and become ill, antibiotic therapy will in most cases prevent infection of the fetus and the birth of the baby with congenital listeriosis. Newborns with this infectious disease are given the same antibiotics as adults. But in most such cases, a combination of several antibiotics is prescribed until the type of infection is established.

How can listeriosis be prevented?

You can prevent the disease by following safe food and food handling standards, such measures include:

  • Safe shopping – put raw meat – chicken, pork or beef in separate plastic bags and meats should be in a separate bag from other food products. When you’re done shopping, go home to avoid the risk of some of the food you bought spoiling quickly.
  • Prepare following all the rules for safe food and meal preparation – wash your hands with soap and water before and after all food handling. Also, wash your hands after using the toilet or after changing your baby’s nappies or diapers, making sure to leave the soap on for at least 15-20 seconds.

Wash fresh fruit thoroughly under running water. and vegetables. If possible, use two cutting boards – one for fresh fruit and vegetables and the other for raw meats, fish and seafood. It is recommended to wash the cutting boards in the dishwasher to disinfect them.

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