Listeria is a bacterium that causes a severe illness called listeriosis. Unlike most bacteria, Listeria can grow even at refrigeration or freezing temperatures, making it particularly dangerous if a product is stored improperly. Infection can result from consuming contaminated food, drink or water.
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Thankfully, Listeria is a fairly uncommon infection, with the CDC reporting only 1,600 Listeria cases per year, which result in 260 deaths. This makes the incidence rate of Listeria 0.26 cases per 100,000 persons.
Breaking News: The National Frozen Food Corp. recalls several brands of frozen peas and frozen vegetables due to listeria concerns. Click here to learn more about the recall. Please check your refrigerator for contaminated items and contact a food poisoning lawyer if you believe you were hospitalized due to this recall.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of listeriosis typically appear 21 days after Listeria infection, but the symptoms could appear anywhere from three to 70 days. The infection could last anywhere from days to weeks.
Symptoms of Listeria infection are:
- Muscle Aches
One serious issue with Listeriosis is that sometimes the infection can spread to the blood and nervous system, where more permanent damage may occur. In pregnant women, listeriosis could potentially spread to the fetus and result in miscarriage.
If the infection spreads to the brain, symptoms may include:
- Stiff Neck
- Loss of balance
It is important to remember that healthy adults almost never develop severe sickness. However, there are groups of people that are very susceptible to Listeria infection, and they are:
- Pregnant Women, who are 20 times more likely to get Listeriosis
- Those with Weakened Immune Systems
- Those With Cancer
- Those With AIDS, who are 500 times more likely to become infected
- Elderly Persons
If you begin to be very sick with fever and a stiff neck, contact a doctor as soon as possible. The treatment for Listeria usually involves antibiotics. Also, in pregnant women, it is very important to catch the disease early on so infection of the baby can be prevented.
Listeria infections are commonly caused by deli meats, hot dogs, unpasteurized milk and dairy products, refrigerated smoked seafood, and raw produce. These products are typically contaminated due to improper food preparation, storage, or cooking. It is important to note that, much of the time, healthy adults who consume contaminated products do not develop an infection.
Refrigeration does NOT kill Listeria. Listeria has been shown to continue to grow and spread at refrigeration or freezer temperatures, which is uncommon among bacteria. Cooking meats thoroughly and to a safe temperature will kill any of the bacteria present. Rinsing produce prior to consumption, as well as scrubbing firm produce with a produce brush, will also reduce the chance of infection. Drying off produce with a paper towel will also prevent infection. Proper hand washing is always an advisable method of disease prevention.