Listeriosis, or listeria, is a bacterial infection cause by Listeria monocytogenes. Pregnant women, newborn infants, the elderly, and people with compromised immune system are susceptible to Listeria infection. However, human infection of listeriosis is rare. The infection common in farm as well as wild animals so that eating the meat of infected animals is the number one mode of infection of listeriosis.
It is possible that a healthy person gets infected with listeriosis but he or she does not know about it because his or her immune system has fought off the infection. However, listeriosis is particularly dangerous to pregnant women because it can lead to early delivery, infection to the fetus, or even miscarriage.
Causes of listeriosis
Listeriosis is cause by the infection of bacterium Listeria monocytogenes that can be found in soil, water, and meat and other products from infected farm and wild animals. Eating raw vegetables containing the bacteria from contaminated soil, meat from an infected animal, contaminated unpasteurized milk and milk products, and contaminated processed foods is the number one mode of infection of listeria. A fetus can also catch the infection from its mother through the placenta. However, breastfeeding infants are not known to transmit the bacteria from the mother to the baby.
Symptoms of listeriosis
If the person ingested large amount of the bacteria, or if he or she has a weak immune system, the symptoms could appear in few days after infection. However, people with robust immune system or those who have ingested a small amount of the bacteria may show symptoms even as late as 2 months after infection. The early onset of listeria can manifest as fever, muscle pain, dizziness, and diarrhoea. If the infection has spread to the nervous system, it could manifest as severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. In newborns, the symptoms include loss of appetite, irritability, fever, and vomiting.
Treatment of listeriosis
Listeria is treated with intravenous antibiotics given in a hospital setting for about 10 days. People with weak immune system may take longer than 10 days to eliminate the infection. Children with compromised immune system due to HIV infection or cancer may develop complication that needs additional course of treatment.
Listeriosis is not a serious disease among very healthy individuals so that they may not need treatment to fight off the infection. Their immune system can handle the infection without the need to take medication.
Prevention of listeriosis
There are many ways you can do to prevent contracting listeriosis. For instance, thoroughly washing of fruits and vegetables with running water can take out the contamination from the soil. Avoid contact between raw meat and ready-to-eat food products such as fruits, vegetables, and processed foods. It is also advised to cook meat and poultry products thoroughly to kill the bacteria. Reheating ready-to-eat food items and leftovers to steaming hot is also a good idea to kill the pathogen. Pregnant women and high risk individuals are also advised to avoid unpasteurized milk and milk products such as cheese and yogurt.
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