PUBLIC HEALTH FACT SHEET
What is Listeriosis?
Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease affects primarily pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems.
How is it spread?
- Listeria bacteria are widely distributed in soil and water, which can contaminate certain foods including unpasteurized milk, unpasteurized soft cheese, deli-style meats, poultry and egg products.
- The fetus and newborn are highly susceptible to transmission from an infected pregnant woman causing miscarriage, stillbirth or serious health problems.
- Elderly and immune-deficient people are also susceptible.
How is it treated?
- Listeriosis can be treated with antibiotics.
- A diagnosis is made when the bacteria is found in blood, spinal fluid, or amniotic fluid.
How can we prevent Listeriosis?
- Thoroughly cook raw meats.
- Wash raw vegetables thoroughly before eating.
- Thoroughly reheat ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and deli-style meats before eating.
- Avoid unpasteurized soft cheeses, raw milk and smoked fish.
- Observe all package expiration dates.
- Avoid cross-contamination of ready-to-eat food with raw foods.
- Refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours.
- Wash hands, knives, and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods.
SYMPTOMS OF LISTERIOSIS
- Flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea, headache.
- If the central nervous system is infected there may be sudden onset of intense headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, confusion, loss of balance, convulsions.