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Health Information For Parents
Listeria infections — known as listeriosis — are a rare type of food poisoning. They can happen when someone eats a food contaminated by a type of bacterium.
Most cases affect pregnant women in their last trimester, newborns, older adults, and people whose immune system is weakened by diseases such as cancer or HIV.
Listeria (liss-TEER-ee-uh) infections can cause symptoms such as:
Pregnant women with an infection may only have mild flu-like symptoms, like muscle aches, but are at risk for premature delivery and other serious complications to their fetus.
Listeria infections are caused by Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, which can spread through soil and water.
People can ingest the bacteria by eating foods such as deli meats and cold cuts, soft-ripened cheese, undercooked chicken, uncooked hot dogs, shellfish, and unpasteurized (raw) milk or dairy products made from raw milk.
Listeriosis doesn’t pass from person to person. People become infected by ingesting contaminated food or fluids. However, a pregnant woman can pass the infection to her unborn baby.
Doctors usually diagnose Listeria infections with a lab test called a bacterial culture, done on a sample of a body fluid, such as blood, spinal fluid, or the placenta.
The earlier listeriosis is detected and treated, the better, because it can cause a serious and life-threatening infection.
Healthy kids, teens, and adults with a Listeria infection typically don’t need treatment. Symptoms usually go away within a few weeks.
Pregnant women and newborns with listeriosis will receive antibiotics in the hospital through an intravenous catheter (IV) into a vein. Treatment lasts for about 10 days, but that can vary depending on the body’s ability to fight off the infection.
Children whose immune systems are compromised by illness or infection, such as cancer or HIV, are more likely to develop severe listeriosis infections and may need further treatment.
Some people with severe Listeria infections — especially those with weakened immunity and people over age 65 — can develop gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea, also called the “stomach flu”), bacteremia (a bacterial infection in the blood), sepsis (a dangerous full-body response to bacteremia), meningitis, pneumonia, osteomyelitis (infection in a bone), and endocarditis (inflammation and infection of the heart’s lining).
Particularly if you are pregnant or in one of the other high-risk groups, avoiding certain foods and drinks can reduce your risk of getting this infection.
Other tips to help protect your family from listeriosis (and other foodborne illnesses):
Call your doctor immediately if your child develops fast or labored breathing, a fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, dehydration, a high-pitched cry, excessive sleepiness, or irritability. If your child has listeriosis, the doctor can immediately start treatment.
During your pregnancy, you’ll probably get advice from everyone. But staying healthy depends on you – read about the many ways to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.
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Sometimes, germs can get into food and cause food poisoning. Find out what to do if your child gets food poisoning – and how to prevent it.
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Salmonellosis is a foodborne illness caused by the bacteria salmonella. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and headache.
Find out what the experts have to say.
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Fevers happen when the body’s internal “thermostat” raises the body temperature above normal. This is often the body’s way of fighting infections.
Learn why food safety is important and how you can avoid the spread of bacteria when you are buying, preparing, and storing food.
Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection and severe diarrhea. Here’s how to protect yourself.
The germs that get into food and cause food poisoning are tiny, but can have a powerful effect on the body. Find out what to do if you get food poisoning – and how to prevent it.
Did you ever eat something that made you feel ooky? It might have been food poisoning.
Sometimes kids lose fluids and salts through fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or sweating. Here are some tips on preventing or treating dehydration.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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