Health officials include listeriosis among the most dangerous foodborne illnesses in the United States. In the latest installment of our series on foodborne illness, we're going to take a look at this troublesome bacteria and present tips to reduce your chances of becoming its victim.
Where Does Listeriosis Come From?
Listeriosis gets its name from a genus of bacteria named Listeria. Genera is a scientific way of classifying groups of related organisms - plants, animals and, most important to this discussion, bacteria. The type of Listeria that often gets the most press attention belongs to the species Listeria monocytogenes.
Listeria often lives in soil but it's not uncommon for them to reside in animal hosts. When humans become infected with Listeria, usually after eating contaminated food, they might develop a sickness called "listeriosis".
Who Does Listeria Infect?
Anyone can become infected with listeriosis. According to government statistics, each year there are 1600 incidences of listeriosis. 2011 was a busy year for L. monocytogenes; US government health agencies were issued recalls for cantaloupes and chicken breasts because these foods had become contaminated with Listeria.
Although anyone can get sick from Listeria, people most susceptible to infection include:
- pregnant women
- newborn babies
- transplant patients
- patients on certain medications
- patients undergoing certain therapies
- cancer patients
- people with liver or kidney disease
- older adults
- people suffering from alcoholism
- others with weakened immune systems
What Are The Symptoms of Listeriosis?
Last year's nationwide outbreak of listeriosis food poisoning proves this disease should definitely be taken seriously. Listeriosis warning signs include:
- upset stomach
- muscle aches
- stiff neck
- loss of balance
- miscarriage (in pregnant women)
- premature delivery (in pregnant women)
- life threatening illness to newborns
Listeria monocytogenes has also been known to cause meningoencephalitis, encephalitis as well as cervical and intrauterine infections in pregnant women which can lead to stillbirths.
The Food and Drug Administration's Bad Bug Book indicates the most serious symptoms of Listeria might show up between a few days to several weeks after infection. Gastrointestinal symptoms of listeriosis, on the other hand, may be expressed within less than a day after contracting the disease.
Listeriosis Infection Prevention Tips
Despite the dangers listeriosis pose to the public, fortunately, there are ways to minimize your chances of infection. Since we know that most incidences of listeriosis are the result of eating contaminated food, the best way to prevent infection is to cut off the germs' access way into the human body.
How can we do that? By following these helpful tips provided by US government health officials:
- wash your hands, utensils, cutting boards and counter tops before and after handling uncooked foods
- maintain a refrigerator temperature of 40 degrees or lower Fahrenheit and freezer temperature of 0 degree or less Fahrenheit
- quickly and thoroughly clean up any refrigerator spills; in particular fluids from raw meats and poultry, hot dogs, and lunch meats
- use hot soapy water to thoroughly clean refrigerator shelves and walls
- don't eat, cut or cook raw fruits and vegetables until you've rinsed them under running water
- scrub produce with a clean produce brush because this action may remove bad germs from the food's surface
- use a paper or clean cloth to dry off the produce
- keep raw meats and poultry away from fruits, vegetables, cooked and ready-to-eat foods
Incidents of listeriosis have been declining since the mid 1990s, but practicing good hygiene and cooking practices can substantially improve your chances of avoiding Listeria infection and staying healthy.
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"How To Protect Yourself From Listeria Food Poisoning" copyright 2012 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy. All Rights Reserved.