Listeriosis

Definition:
Listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused by a Gram-positive, motile bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes,which is often found in soil and is present in most animals. It’s transmitted to humans through contaminated food.

Healthy people rarely become ill from listeria infection, but the disease can be fatal to unborn babies and newborns. People who have weakened immune systems are also at higher risk of life-threatening complications. Prompt antibiotic treatment can help curb the effects of listeria infection.

Listeria bacteria can survive refrigeration and even freezing. That’s why people who are at higher risk for serious infections should avoid eating the types of food most likely to contain listeria bacteria.

The symptoms of listeriosis usually last 7–10 days. The most common symptoms are fever and muscle aches and vomiting. Nausea and diarrhea are less common symptoms. If the infection spreads to the nervous system it can cause meningitis, an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of meningitis are headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions

Symptoms:
If you develop a listeria infection, you may experience:

*Fever
*Muscle aches
*Nausea
*Diarrhea
*Loss of appetite
*Lethargy
*Jaundice
*Vomiting
*Respiratory distress (usually pneumonia)
*Shock
*Skin rash
*Increased pressure inside the skull (due to meningitis) possibly causing suture separation

Symptoms may begin a few days after you’ve eaten contaminated food, but it may take as long as two months before the first signs and symptoms of infection begin.

If the listeria infection spreads to your nervous system, signs and symptoms may include:

*Headache
*Stiff neck
*Confusion or changes in alertness
*Loss of balance
*Convulsions

Symptoms during pregnancy and for newborns ;

During pregnancy, a listeria infection is likely to cause only mild signs and symptoms in the mother. The consequences for the baby, however, may be devastating. The baby may die unexpectedly before birth or experience a life-threatening infection within the first few days after birth.

As in adults, the signs and symptoms of a listeria infection in a newborn can be subtle, but may include:

*Little interest in feeding
*Irritability
*Fever
*Vomiting

Causes:
Listeria bacteria can be found in soil, water and animal feces. Humans typically are infected by consuming:

*Raw vegetables that have been contaminated from the soil or from contaminated manure used as fertilizer

*Infected meat

*Unpasteurized milk or foods made with unpasteurized milk

*Certain processed foods — such as soft cheeses, hot dogs and deli meats that have been contaminated after processing

*Prepacked salads (unless they’re thoroughly washed)

*Pâté made from meat, fish or vegetables

*Blue-veined or mould-ripened cheeses

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*Soft-whip ice cream from ice-cream machines

*Precooked poultry and cook-chill meals (unless thoroughly reheated)

*Poor food hygiene and storage practices also increase the risk of someone developing listeriosis

Unborn babies can contract a listeria infection from the mother via the placenta. Breast-feeding is not considered a potential cause of infection.

Risk Factors:
Pregnant women and people who have weak immune systems are at highest risk of contracting a listeria infection.

Pregnant women and their babies
Pregnant women are significantly more susceptible to listeria infections than are other healthy adults. Although a listeria infection may cause only a mild illness in the mother, consequences for the baby may include:


*Miscarriage
*Stillbirth
*Premature birth
*A potentially fatal infection after birth

People who have weak immune systems
This category includes people who:

*Are over 60
*Have AIDS
*Are undergoing chemotherapy
*Have diabetes or kidney disease
*Take high-dose prednisone or certain rheumatoid arthritis drugs
*Take medications to block rejection of a transplanted organ

Complications:
Most listeria infections are so mild they may go unnoticed. However, in some cases, a listeria infection can lead to life-threatening complications — including:

*A generalized blood infection (septicemia)

*Inflammation of the membranes and fluid surrounding the brain (meningitis)

Complications of a listeria infection may be most severe for an unborn baby. Early in pregnancy, a listeria infection may lead to miscarriage. Later in pregnancy, a listeria infection may lead to stillbirth, premature birth or a potentially fatal infection in the baby after birth — even if the mother becomes only mildly ill.

Diagnosis;
In CNS infection cases, L. monocytogenes can often be cultured from the blood, and always cultured from the CSF. There are no reliable serological or stool tests.

Treatment:
Bacteremia should be treated for 2 weeks, meningitis for 3 weeks, and brain abscess for at least 6 weeks. Ampicillin generally is considered antibiotic of choice; gentamicin is added frequently for its synergistic effects.

Prognosis:
Listeriosis in a fetus or infant results in a poor outcome with a high death rate. Healthy older children and adults have a lower death rate.Overall mortality rate is 20–30%; of all pregnancy-related cases, 22% resulted in fetal loss or neonatal death, but mothers usually survive

Prevention:
The main means of prevention is through the promotion of safe handling, cooking and consumption of food. This includes washing raw vegetables and cooking raw food thoroughly, as well as reheating leftover or ready-to-eat foods like hot dogs until steaming hot.

Another aspect of prevention is advising high-risk groups such as pregnant women and immunocompromised patients to avoid unpasteurized pâtés and foods such as soft cheeses like feta, Brie, Camembert cheese, and bleu. Cream cheeses, yogurt, and cottage cheese are considered safe. In the United Kingdom, advice along these lines from the Chief Medical Officer posted in maternity clinics led to a sharp decline in cases of listeriosis in pregnancy in the late 1980s

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose

Resources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/listeriosis.shtml
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001380.htm
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/listeria-infection/DS00963/DSECTION
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Listeriosis

http://abbybatchelder.com/blog/2009/03/02/is-it-safe-to-eat-deli-meats-and-hot-dogs-during-pregnancy/

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