What is Listeria?
Listeria is a bacterium that causes a serious infection called listeriosis. Around 300 deaths are caused by Listeria infection each year, according to estimates from a 2011 CDC report.
Listeria bacteria are most commonly found in raw foods. Vegetables can be contaminated by soil and water carrying bacteria. Listeria is also found in raw animal products, such as meat and cheese.
Healthy adults and children hardly ever become seriously ill from Listeria. However, people at increased risk of illness from Listeria bacteria include:
- Pregnant women
- People with weak immune systems
- People with cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease
- People with AIDS – People with AIDS are 300 times more likely to get sick from Listeria than people with normal immune systems
- People who take gluticocorticosteroids such as cortisone
- Elderly people
What is the illness caused by Listeria typically like?
Listeria symptoms appear anywhere between 3 and 70 days after infection, but usually around 21 days later. Typical symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea, or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the central nervous system, symptoms can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.
Listeria bacteria can invade the central nervous system and cause meningitis or a brain infection.
Symptoms for Pregnant Women and Newborns
Infected pregnant woman experience mild, flu-like symptoms. However, infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, infection of the newborn, or stillbirth. Symptoms usually appear in newborns in the first week of life, but can also occur later on. A newborn’s Listeria symptoms are often subtle, and include irritability, fever, and poor feeding.
You can learn more about Listeria food poisoning at FoodborneIllness.com.