Listeria Food Poisoning
Listeria contamination tends to be somewhat rare, compared to other foodborne illnesses, but when it occurs, it can be dangerous. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 1,000 and 2,000 cases of Listeria infection are reported and confirmed annually. The most common sources of listeria contamination tend to be unpasteurized dairy products, hot dogs and deli meat. But in recent years, more and more cases have been traced to contaminated produce, as well. For example, there was a listeria outbreak in 2011 involving cantaloupe that resulted in 147 reported cases of illnesses, 33 deaths, and at least one miscarriage.
One of the most common types of Listeria bacteria is called Listeria monocytogenes. They are actually very tough and resilient bacteria, usually found in animal and human feces, although they are sometimes found in soil and water, as well. Lately, the bacteria have been discovered in vegetation and in some livestock feed. The bacteria are quite resistant to freezing, drying, and even heating, at least to a certain extent. The bacteria can also live as parasites in animals for a while without making the animals sick, which is why they spread to meat and dairy products. The Listeria bacteria are killed through cooking and pasteurization, but quite often, investigators have found that contamination can happen in the processing plant or elsewhere in the process.
Listeria monocytogenes bacteria can result in an illness called Listeriosis, a serious infection that usually affects infants, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems, although healthy people can be affected, as well.
The initial symptoms of listeriosis tend to be flu-like, including fever, muscle aches and sometimes nausea and diarrhea. These symptoms usually show up about three weeks after contamination, although they can show up in as little as a few days, and as long as a couple of months after exposure. In most cases, the infection runs its course within a short time, with no ill effects.
In some cases, however, the infection can result in serious complications, including pneumonia, meningitis and septicemia. Sometimes, Listeriosis can affect the central nervous system, which can lead to symptoms like headaches, memory loss and confusion, and even convulsions, a brain infection, or even death.
The attorneys at Hill Law Firm want pregnant woman exposed to Listeria to understand the dangers the infection poses to them and their unborn child. While the woman may experience little more than mild flu-like symptoms, sometimes the infection can lead to miscarriage, and it may lead to infection of the newborn, and in some extreme cases, stillbirth. A newborn that becomes infected may have subtle symptoms, such as irritability, fever, and poor feeding. But the problems may develop into full-blown Listeriosis later. The death rate for newborns with Listeria as much as 30 percent.
If you suspect your family or yourself have been exposed to Listeria, seek medical attention immediately, especially if you’re pregnant.