Listeriosis is a severe infection caused by ingesting products contaminated by a bacterium known as listeria monocytogenes. In Spain, this infection is on the rise year after year, and in countries like the United States, some outbreaks have left many fatalities.
Although it can affect everyone, the groups most at risk for complications from Listeriosis are pregnant women and developing fetuses, newborns, and older people who have a suppressed immune system. The increase in life expectancy and, therefore, the increase in the elderly is one of the reasons why Listeriosis affects more and more.
In the following FastlyHealarticle, we will explain everything you need to know about Listeriosis: what it is, its symptoms, the available treatments, and some recommendations to prevent its contagion.
What is Listeriosis
The bacterium Listeria monocytogenes is mainly found in both wild and domestic animals, although it is also present in water and soil. In the same way, meats, vegetables, and other foods that come into contact with contaminated water, dirt, or manure can be potential sources of contagion, as well as raw milk and all those dairy products originating from an infected animal. This bacterium can be fatal in many of these animals, just as it is in humans, and leads to miscarriages and stillbirths.
Although anyone who eats an infected food can become contaminated, the groups of people who are most at risk are:
- Adults over 50 years of age
- People with a weak immune system
- Newly born
Mainly the bacteria that cause Listeriosis usually cause gastrointestinal diseases, but depending on which cases, it can be transmitted to the blood, causing septicemia, or to other organs. Depending on the organ it affects, it can cause one or another disease :
- Endocarditis if it affects the heart
- Meningitis if it affects the brain or cerebrospinal fluid. This is usually common in the cases of babies and young children.
- Pneumonia if it affects the lungs.
- Septicemia if it affects the blood.
In milder cases, the infection can occur with the following affectations:
- Skin lesions
If the infected is a pregnant woman, the consequences for both the pregnant woman and the fetus can be lethal, leading to spontaneous abortion or the birth of a stillbirth. Bacteria can cross the placental tissues infecting the fetus. If the infection occurs at the beginning of pregnancy, it will indeed cause spontaneous abortion, while if it is at the end of pregnancy, it can cause death before or a few days after birth. About 50% of newborns infected at delivery will die in the weeks following birth.
Symptoms of Listeriosis
Listeriosis does not appear immediately, but the first symptoms can take several days to a few weeks. Similarly, the first symptoms are usually mild, so it may take a person some time to suspect that they have an infection. That is why it is so important to take precautions, especially during pregnancy, to avoid getting infected because once infected, it is difficult to diagnose it quickly.
Listeriosis in pregnancy often causes a few symptoms very similar to those of flu, i.e.:
- Cold sweat and chills
- Muscle pain
- Stomach ache
However, if it spreads through the nervous system, these symptoms can become more serious:
- Neck stiffness and stiffness
- Lack of balance
If you have any of these symptoms, especially pregnant, you must go to the doctor for a blood test to establish if the symptoms are caused by listeria infection.
In the case of babies, symptoms are usually observed from the first days of life. The manifestation of the infection manifests itself in:
- Does not want to eat
- Just sleep
- You find it hard to breathe
- Have rashes
Although you have to be cautious, it is unnecessary to fall into alarmism. If you have not consumed any product that could be contaminated, and still doing so, if you do not notice symptoms of having been infected, it is not necessary to start any treatment or take any medical test.
However, if you are pregnant and you notice any of the symptoms that we have described above less than two months after having consumed the contaminated food, you should see a doctor immediately to determine if you are infected or not.
In case of a positive result, Listeriosis in pregnancy is treated by administering antibiotics. As a general rule, these same antibiotics are used to prevent infection in the baby. In the case of newborns, adults, and the rest of those affected, the procedure to follow is the same.
Prevention of Listeriosis
As we have said before, after a few days and even weeks, it is tough to diagnose Listeriosis since it does not produce symptoms in its early stages. For all this, it is so important to take the necessary precautions to avoid contagion, especially during pregnancy. Here are a series of tips to prevent Listeriosis:
- Do not eat cold meats or cold cuts unless they have been reheated at high temperatures.
- Wash your hands after handling deli meats and deli meats.
- Avoid soft cheeses like Bries, Feta, Camembert, or blue cheeses. If you can eat hard cheeses without fear.
- Do not eat meat spreads or refrigerated patés; you can only eat them if they are packaged or canned.
- Do not drink raw unpasteurized milk or any dairy that is not pasteurized.
- Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or consume products that contain unpasteurized milk.
- Eat refrigerated foods that can go bad as soon as possible.
- Clean the fridge often.
- Make sure your fridge is always at 4ºC or less.
- Don’t eat undercooked meat.
- Wash your hands every time you touch a pet or farm animal.
This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.
If you want to read more articles similar to Listeriosis: what it is and its symptoms , we recommend that you enter our Immune System category .
I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.