What is listeriosis?
Listeriosis is an infectional disease that is caused by bacteria known as Listeria. As the bacteria generally make its way into the body via food, the infection is also known as food poisoning.
Sometimes the disorder is not so severe and does not need any sort of treatment. The infection sometimes can cause further severe illness, like a brain or a blood infection.
Pregnant women are much more likely prone to have listeriosis than other healthy adults. The infection can cause miscarriage, or their newborn baby may be born with the infection.
Newborns can get much sicker than their mothers. The infection is most likely to affect the older adults or people who are having weak immune systems. (The immune system is the body's defense against infections).
What is the cause of listeriosis?
The bacteria can live in the animal or human intestine. Bowel movements can spread the bacteria to soil or water. Fruits or vegetables can get contaminated if they come in contact with this soil or water. Usually contaminated food look and smell like normal.
You may get infected if:
- You eat or drink dairy products that have not been pasteurized (heated to kill certain bacteria).
- You eat contaminated food, especially raw or undercooked meat.
- You eat food that has been handled by someone who is infected.
- You swallow water from a well, lake, stream, or city water that has not been treated to kill germs.
- You have contact with an infected animal.
In many cases, the source of infection is not known.
How is listeriosis diagnosed?
Your doctor will surely ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. Liquid from parts of your body, such as the blood, spine, or joints, may be tested for presence of bacteria.
What are the symptoms of listeriosis?
You may not have symptoms until weeks after you are infected. Symptoms may include:
- Muscle aches
If the infection spreads to the nervous system it can cause meningitis. Meningitis is an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of meningitis may include:
- Stiff neck
- Loss of balance
Meningitis can be fatal.
How is listeriosis treated?
Mild infections often get better without treatment. You may need to take antibiotic medicine for several weeks to make sure all of the bacteria are gone in case of a serious infection.
When a pregnant woman is infected, taking antibiotics can often keep the baby from getting infected. The baby will usually need antibiotics, if a baby gets infected at birth or soon afterwards the baby is born.