Listeria meningitis is a serious infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease mainly affects persons of advanced age, newborns, pregnant women, and adults with comprised immune systems.
Listeria is a bacteria found in water, soil and sometimes plants. Most Listeria infections occur as a result of people eating contaminated foods. Environmental contamination can occur through infected soil, water and plants. It can also be passed to an unborn baby through the placenta, leading to premature delivery, stillbirth, miscarriage, and serious health problems for the newborn.
Symptoms may take a few days or weeks to appear. During pregnancy, it is vitally important to take food safety precautions. In pregnant women, listeriosis may cause flu-like symptoms, including fever, chills, muscle aches, diarrhea, and upset stomach. In general, or if the infection has spread to the nervous system, symptoms include headache, confusion, stiff neck, loss of balance, and convulsions. If you have any of these symptoms, consult your health care provider.
The following advice is provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): For pregnant women, do not eat luncheon meats, deli meats, or hot dogs unless they have been reheated until steaming hot. Avoid getting hot dog fluid on other foods, utensils, etc. Do not eat soft cheeses. Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood. Do not drink raw milk. Use a refrigerator thermometer to ensure that your refrigerator is 40 °F or below. General recommendations include: cook raw food from animal sources thoroughly, keep cooked meats separate from other foods, wash raw vegetables, wash hands, utensils and cutting boards after touching raw meat, and consume ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible.
Most experts do not treat the condition if you have eaten contaminated food and show no symptoms. However, tell your physician if you are pregnant and and think you may have eaten contaminated food and are experiencing flu-like symptoms. Antibiotics are given during pregnancy to treat listeriosis in the mother. Most often, the antibiotics will prevent infection in the unborn child. For babies, children, and adults, antibiotics are normally administered.
Government and Listeria
The Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases (CCID) is studying listeriosis and investigating its outbreaks. Food is regularly monitored by the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
When to Visit a Doctor
If you think you have eaten contaminated food, call your doctor immediately. If you begin to experience any of the symptoms, schedule a visit with your doctor as soon as possible.