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Listeria: All You Need To Know About The Fatal Infection Linked To Cheese

By Mridusmita Das

Listeria (Scientific name: Listeria monocytogenes) is a fatal disease caused by the consumption of food infected by a type of bacteria. This infection is deadly and is the cause of several deaths. Aged people, pregnant women as well as newborns and those with a weak immune system are likely to be susceptible to this infection. It is usually a rare case when healthy adults, in other groups, are sickened by the Listeria infection.

While it is very difficult to make out that one is affected by listeria, as the symptoms show up very slowly (the incubation period being 3 to 70 days), the general symptoms of listeria include fever, muscle pain and at times the person infected might show symptoms of nausea or diarrhea.

what causes listeria

Once the infection spreads and affects the nervous system, a person might be reported to show other symptoms like headache, loss of balance, stiff neck, etc., while for pregnant women, it might show up more like a normal flu, but it can be risky for the fetus or a newborn. It might cause miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth and a fatal infection for the newborn.
 
Time and again, there have been listeria outbreaks which have made people sick and also led to the loss of lives of the victims. These life-threatening outbreaks have often been linked to dairy products, especially cheese.

Let us understand the causes of this infection and how it is transmitted to our body.

This infection is caused by consuming the food that is contaminated by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. A person might get infected with Listeria through contaminated food and fluids. Though it is not a contagious infection, it can be transmitted to a newborn if the mother is infected during pregnancy.

People affected with mild symptoms of this infection require no specific treatment. If the infection is a severe and serious one, then it can be treated with the help of antibiotics. Thus, the treatment of listeria depends on the severity of the infection.

This bacteria can be transmitted to our body from vegetables, which are contaminated from the soil or the manure used as fertilizer for the soil, as the bacteria are found in soil and water.

The bacteria is also carried by animals which can contaminate meat and dairy products. Food once processed, like cheese, and products made from unpasteurized milk can be contaminated with this bacteria. The bacteria can also survive in the food processing plants and thus contaminate the processed meat.

How To Prevent The Attack Of Listeria?

While shopping, make sure you carry meat and poultry items separately from other items. Store all food properly. Listeria can grow in a cold environment. So your refrigerator can actually be a potential place for this infection to grow.

So, keep your refrigerator clean when you store meat, fish or poultry items. It is always a good idea to be aware of when to use the food by referring to the package label. Rince raw produces thoroughly under running tap water.

Also, it is necessary to maintain hygiene levels while cooking and handling food. Cook meals after washing hands, make sure to wash the knives, cutting boards and other tools and utensils used for cooking. It is important to cook food thoroughly and also reheat the food properly.

It is advisable to throw spoiled products and avoid ready-to-eat products. Be careful while consuming raw milk products, as the listeria germ is more likely to be hidden in dairy products made from raw, unpasteurized milk.

If you have contracted this infection, pay closer attention to the signs and symptoms and consult a doctor immediately. Prompt treatment with antibiotics can be life-saving. With more food hygiene and preventive measures, you can prevent the contact of this infection.

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