Just this year, beginning July 31, 2011, listeria has caused massive food poisoning in 25 U.S. states. According to reports, the outbreak came from cantaloupes from a farm in Colorado. 15 deaths from a total of 84 cases have been confirmed and it’s said to have caused 72 illnesses in America. What’s alarming is that this listeria outbreak is now considered the third worst food-borne illness in the U.S. Elderly people and pregnant women, in particular, are most susceptible to the disease.
Where does listeria come from? Its sources include animals, soil, sewerage and produce. It’s generally linked as well to refrigerated pate, meat spreads, deli meats, unpasteurized milk, soft white cheeses, soft-serve ice cream, etc. With pregnant women, the bacteria can affect both mother and the unborn child. It can pass through the placenta and affect the unborn baby, resulting in a miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth. Almost 22 percent of listeria cases among pregnant women have ended in stillbirth deliveries.
Even if the pregnancy should come to term, other possible complications include paralysis, mental retardation, different impairments or low birth weight, as well as a risk for contracting meningitis.
How do you know if you have listeria? The problem with listeria is that it has a long incubation time. This means that the symptoms can surface only after four weeks from exposure.
Another problem is that listeria’s symptoms are generally flu-like, which means that most health practitioners may simply dismiss it as the common flu. While antibiotics can treat listeria, it is seldom detected early on to prevent complications.