What Is Listeria? Listeria is an infection caused by consuming food or beverages contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Listeria can cause mild symptoms, such as nausea and diarrhea, to severe symptoms, such as inflammation of the brain.
Listeria is harmless in healthy individuals and usually only causes mild symptoms. However, this infection can be dangerous in the elderly, people whose immune system is weak, and people with certain diseases.
Listeria can also be dangerous in pregnant women, as it can infect fetuses in the womb. The condition can cause miscarriage until the baby dies in the womb (stillbirth).
What Is Listeria Caused From?
Listeria is caused by a bacterial infection of Listeria monocytogenes that lives in water, soil, and animal feces. These bacteria can infect humans through food or drink, such as:
- Raw vegetables derived from soil contaminated with bacteria
- Packaged food products contaminated with bacteria after production
- Milk or derivative products that are not pasteurized
- Animal meat contaminated with bacteria
Listeria bacteria can survive in the refrigerator or freezer, so putting food in that place does not guarantee food is free of bacteria.
What Is Listeria Symptoms?
People infected with Listeria bacteria can feel mild to severe symptoms.
Once the body is infected with Listeria bacteria, sufferers generally show signs of food poisoning, among them:
- Cold hot body
- Muscle pain
Symptoms can appear within days or intervals of more than 30 days after the sufferer consumes bacteria contaminated with Listeria.
If the Listeria infection has spread to the nervous system, some of the symptoms that appear include:
- The neck feels stiff
- Loss of balance
Listeria infections in pregnant women generally show only mild symptoms. However, the impact can be fatal for babies in the womb.
The worst risk is that a baby could die in the womb or experience symptoms of a life-threatening infection a few days after the baby is born.
Signs or symptoms of Listeria infection in newborns include:
- Reluctant to breast milk
- Difficulty breathing.
To determine the diagnosis of Listeria disease, the doctor generally performs a blood or urine test.
Diagnosis of listeriosis can be determined based on medical interviews, live physical examinations, and certain supporting examinations.
The doctor will ask about the history of the food consumed in the last few days as well as the symptoms experienced, and the after going on a physical examination.
Some types of supporting examinations that can be performed are blood tests or spinal fluid tests when assessed as necessary.
What is Listeria treated with?
Treatment of listeriosis depends on how severe the signs and symptoms are and the overall health status. If the signs and symptoms are mild enough, no specific treatment is required other than rest and good monitoring.
People with the condition are advised to keep consuming enough water. Doctors can prescribe anti-pain medications to relieve complaints of fever or muscle pain.
If the signs and symptoms are severe enough, or there are signs and symptoms of a follow-up infection, the doctor may prescribe certain types of antibiotics.
In addition, severe infections also require hospital treatment for medication through veins as well as regular monitoring.
Recovery from mild infections generally takes about three to five days. In people with advanced infections, recovery depends on the degree of severity of the infection. If the infection becomes invasive, recovery can take up to six weeks.
Listeria Disease Prevention
Listeria infection can be prevented by taking the following steps:
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after preparing food.
- Wash raw fruits and vegetables with running water.
- Clean the cooking utensils with warm water and soap before and after use.
- Cook the food until it is fully cooked. If necessary, use a food thermometer to ensure the inside of the food is cooked.
- Preheat the food you want to eat.
- Periodically clean the inside of the refrigerator with warm water and soap to kill bacteria.
Especially for pregnant women and people with low immune systems, it is best to avoid the consumption of food or beverages, such as:
- Hot dog
- Ham or other processed meats, except when packed in cans
- Unpasteurized milk and processed products made from such milk, such as cheese
- Smoked milkfish or other smoked seafood food that has been stored in the refrigerator