Listeriosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium known as Listeria monocytogenes. While this disease is rare, it can have serious consequences, particularly for certain vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems. We will further discuss listeriosis, the symptoms that may appear, and simple steps that can be taken to prevent this illness.
What is listeriosis?
Listeriosis is an infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. This bacterium can be found in various environments, including soil, water, and animal feces. The disease is typically transmitted through the consumption of food contaminated with this bacterium. Upon entering the human body, Listeria can trigger a range of symptoms, such as fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, headache, and in more severe cases, it can lead to serious complications like meningitis.
Who’s at High Risk for Listeriosis?
Pregnant women are among those at a greater risk of Listeriosis. During pregnancy, their immune system changes, which makes them more susceptible to infections. Additionally, Listeria can pass from the pregnant mother to her baby, potentially causing serious complications like miscarriage, premature birth, or infections in newborns. Besides pregnant women, older adults and individuals with weakened immune systems are also more likely to get this illness.
Symptoms of Listeriosis
The symptoms of Listeriosis can vary from mild to severe and may not always occur in every case. Some common symptoms include:
– Muscle pain
In more severe cases, Listeriosis can lead to symptoms such as stiffness in the neck, loss of balance, and even seizures. If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, please consult a doctor immediately.
Preventive Measures to Reduce the Risk of Listeriosis
Here are some simple measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of infection:
Wash your hands with soap
Washing your hands with soap is the essential first step in preventing infections. Always wash your hands before eating, after outdoor activities, and after using the restroom. This will help reduce the spread of bacteria.
Cleanse vegetables and fruits thoroughly
Before cooking or consuming vegetables and fruits, ensure that you wash them well. This will help eliminate any bacteria that may be present on their surfaces. Use a gentle brush or specialized cleaner if necessary, and rinse with clean water.
Cook food until it’s fully done
One of the most effective methods to eliminate Listeria bacteria is by cooking food until it’s completely done. Make sure that meat, poultry, and eggs are thoroughly cooked before eating. Avoid raw or undercooked foods.
Store food properly
To prevent cross-contamination of food, be sure to store it separately in the refrigerator. Place raw meat in a covered container and avoid it coming into contact with other foods.
Avoid unpasteurized dairy products
Dairy products that have not been pasteurized can be a source of Listeria. Make sure to buy pasteurized dairy products and store them at the correct temperature in the refrigerator.
Clean cooking equipment thoroughly
Remember to clean cooking equipment, such as knives, cutting boards, and other tools, both before and after use. Contamination can occur through the use of these tools during food preparation.
Special Measures for Pregnant Women
Pregnant women need to pay closer attention to Listeriosis prevention measures. In addition to following the guidelines above, there are some additional actions that can help protect the health of pregnant mothers and their newborn, including:
– Avoid raw or undercooked foods
It’s best to steer clear of foods like raw sushi, undercooked beef, raw eggs, or unpasteurized dairy products.
– Pay attention to the expiration date
Always check the expiration date on the food you purchase, and make sure to consume it before that date.
– Avoid eating unheated fast food
Fast food that has not been previously heated can be a source of Listeria. Make sure to heat up fast food until it’s hot before consuming it.
– Avoid contact with risky animals
If you have pets that can be a source of Listeria, such as cats that often go outside, avoid direct contact with these animals during pregnancy.