Symptoms of listeria sometimes begin few days after you’ve eaten contaminated food. But it can take as long as 2 months before the first signs and symptoms of listeria infection begin.
What Is Listeria?
Listeria infection is a foodborne bacterial infection that can be very serious for pregnant women and people with an impaired immune system. Listeria bacteria are most commonly contracted by eating improperly processed meats and unpasteurized milk products.
Listeria infection can be fatal to unborn babies and newborns. Individuals with a weakened immune system are also at a higher risk of some life-threatening complications.
Prompt listeria antibiotic treatment can help in curbing the effects of listeria infection.
The listeria bacteria can also survive refrigeration and even freezing. This is why individuals that are at a higher risk of serious infections should avoid eating certain types of food most likely to contain listeria bacteria.
Causes Of Listeria
Listeria causes include bacteria that can be found in soil, water and even animal faeces. Humans become infected by consuming:
- Raw vegetables which have been contaminated from the soil or from contaminated manure which are used as fertilizer
- Infected animal meat
- An unpasteurized milk or foods made with unpasteurized milk
- Some processed foods which include soft cheeses, hot dogs and deli meats that may have been contaminated after processing
Unborn babies are also likely to contract a listeria infection from the mother through the placenta.
Symptoms Of Listeria
Some of the symptoms of listeria you may experience if you develop a listeria infection include:
- Muscle aches
When the listeria infection spreads to your nervous system, some of the signs and symptoms of listeria may include:
- Stiff neck
- Changes in alertness
- Loss of balance
Listeria and pregnancy | Symptoms of Listeria during pregnancy and for newborns
During pregnancy, the listeria infection is most likely to cause only mild signs and symptoms of listeria in the mother. The consequences are however devastating for the baby. The baby may even die unexpectedly before birth or experience life-threatening infections within the first few days after birth.
Just as in adults, the signs and symptoms of a listeria disease in a newborn may be subtle, and may include:
- Very little interest in feeding
Risk factors Of Listeria Infection
Pregnant women and people with weakend immune systems are more prone to contracting a listeria infection.
Pregnant women and their babies
A healthy person hardly suffers from listeria. But pregnant women are more susceptible to listeria infections. Other persons who are at risk of a listeria infection include:
- Unborn babies
- People with weak immune system
A listeria infection may cause only a mild illness in the pregnant mother, but the consequences are more severe for the baby. They include:
- A miscarriage
- A stillbirth
- A premature birth
- And a potentially fatal infection after birth
For People Who Have Weak Immune Systems
This category of individuals includes people who:
- Are older than 65
- Have AIDS
- Have diabetes
- Undergoing chemotherapy
- Have kidney disease
- Who take high-dose prednisone or certain rheumatoid arthritis drugs
- Who take medications to block rejection of a transplanted organ
Complications Of Listeria Infection
Some listeria infections are so mild and may go unnoticed. In some cases, however, listeria infection can even lead to life-threatening complications including:
- Septicaemia (This is a blood infection)
- Inflammation of the meninges (The membranes and fluid which surrounds the brain)
Complications of a listeria infection are even more severe for an unborn baby.
During the early stage of pregnancy, a listeria infection may likely lead to miscarriage. In the later stage of pregnancy, a listeria infection may likely lead to stillbirth, premature birth or some fatal infections in the baby after birth.
Prevention Of Listeria Infection
To prevent a listeria outbreak or infection, you may follow some simple food safety guidelines:
- Keeping things clean.Washing your hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water before and after preparing or handling food.
- Clean raw vegetables.Scrub raw vegetables with a scrub brush or under plenty of running water.
- Thoroughly cook your food.You can also make use a food thermometer to make sure your meat and poultry dishes are cooked to a normal temperature.
Certain Precautions For People At Risk
If you’re pregnant or have a weak immune system, you may want to be really cautious about listeria. You should take additional precautions with these types of foods:
- Soft cheeses
- Mexican-style cheeses.
- Hot dogs
- Luncheon meats and deli meats
- Meat spreads
- Refrigerated smoked seafood
Treatment And Drugs For Listeria
Listeria treatment varies and depends on the severity of the signs and symptoms of listeria infection. Some people with mild symptoms may require no treatment. A more serious infection may be treated with listeria antibiotics.
In pregnancy, prompt treatment with antibiotic may help to keep the infection from affecting the baby. Newborns with a listeria infection may receive a combination of antibiotics.