What to Do If I’m Infected With Listeria


In this, the fourth in our series on Food Poisoning cases, we discuss some of the details surrounding cases involving contamination with Listeria. The Listeria monocytogenes bacteria are another all-too-common source of food poisoning. According to a 2011 report by the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 300 people die each year from Listeria infections, also known as listeriosis. Listeria bacteria is usually present in raw animal products, like meat and dairy products.

In recent years, however, Listeria has been present in many more raw vegetable products, which can be contaminated by water and soil containing listeria bacteria. In some cases, processing plants and equipment can become contaminated, as well, which is why heavily-processed ready-to-eat deli meats are among the most common foods to cause Listeria contamination and infection. Listeria bacteria can even grow in the cold temperatures, so the bacteria can’t be killed in the refrigerator. The bacteria is killed by cooking and pasteurization. The current trend toward “raw food” has resulted in a number of Listeriosis infections, as unpasteurized milk or dairy products made with unpasteurized milk, smoked seafood, and raw sprouts are now among the most common causes of Listeriosis.

What is Listeria Monocytogenes?

The foodborne bacteria Listeria monocytogenes is especially dangerous for pregnant women, babies, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems, usually from ailments like diabetes, cancer, HIV, etc.  While most healthy people who are exposed to Listeria will not get very sick at all, some others will become seriously ill. In fact, pregnant women should be especially careful to avoid exposure to Listeria bacteria. If a pregnant woman eats Listeria-contaminated food during pregnancy, it is possible for her newborn baby to be born with Listeriosis, and the death rate among newborns with Listeriosis hovers between 25 and 50 percent.

To diagnose Listeriosis, a doctor will isolate cells of this organism from blood, spinal fluid, or a site on the body that is otherwise normally sterile, such as the placenta or fetus. Initial symptoms of Listeriosis include cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, and/or diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear between 3 days and 70 days after exposure, with the average being about three weeks.

What Symptoms Should I Look For?

The symptoms of Listeria infection usually appear about three weeks after exposure, although they can appear anytime between 3 and 70 days after infection. Among the most common symptoms are fever, muscle aches and, occasionally nausea and diarrhea. Sometimes, however, the infection can spread to the central nervous system, which can lead to symptoms such as a stiff neck, headache, confusion, loss of motor control and balance, and even convulsions, in some extreme instances. In some cases, Listeria infection can lead to meningitis or a brain infection.

In many cases, however, Listeria infection can trigger sespticemia, better known as “blood poisoning,” pneumonia, and/or meningitis.  Pregnant women often experience a mild, flu-like illness at first, but that is sometimes followed by miscarriage, stillbirth, or bacteremia and meningitis in newborns.

Although this illness is relatively rare, it makes Listeriosis one of the most deadly foodborne diseases, accounting for roughly 28% of all fatalities from foodborne illness.

Can I Sue for Contracting Listeriosis?

Of course, you can, as long as you can obtain sufficient evidence to connect the illness to a specific food product and a specific source. Cases based on Listeriosis usually involve a product contaminated during processing and sold at a retailer, such as a grocery store or a discount store.  Many victims of Listeriosis, including some from San Antonio or elsewhere in the state of Texas, have been elderly people and many developed meningitis, which is an infection of the lining of the brain, which can lead to permanent brain damage.

If a parent dies, you may have a wrongful death claim, meaning you may have the right to file a lawsuit for the loss of a parent; a right that both minor and adult children generally have this right. You may decide to sue if your baby is born with listeriosis because you ate food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes when you were pregnant. You may also sue if your baby died from listeriosis. In some cases, the baby will seem perfectly healthy at birth, but a few hours or days later, the baby gets very sick and does not survive. If you had a miscarriage and it can be proven that you had listeriosis at the time, you may have a case.

In all cases, you must gather sufficient evidence connecting the illness to a specific food product. Because your little one may have lifelong health problems, it is important to take steps to get full compensation. And the first step is to hire an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable in food poisoning cases generally and Listeria cases specifically to help you through the process, starting with a thorough investigation to gather evidence to prove your case against those responsible.

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