Listeria are bacteria which can be found in certain foods and if consumed can lead to serious illness (listeriosis). The risk of infection is higher in certain individuals such as the elderly, very young children and people who have a weakened immune system, those undergoing asuch as which includes pregnant women. Unlike other bacteria which stay in the digestive tract, listeria can enter the bloodstream and reach the unborn baby through the placenta. Whilst it is rare to contract listeria, because of the increased risk of problems for both mother and unborn child, it is important to avoid foods that may contain listeria during pregnancy.
Foods with risk of listeria
Listeria can also be passed through infection from the stools of infected persons or animals so handwashing is essential.
Symptoms of Listeriosis
In most people symptoms of listeriosis are mild – similar to regular flu or gastroenteritis and include a temperature, aches and chills, vomiting and diarrhoea. These symptoms will generally pass within three days without the need for treatment. However, in pregnancy it is extremely important to diagnose listeriosis (usually via a blood test if listeriosis is suspected) so that the mother can be treated with antibiotics and the unborn baby monitored. In rare cases listeriosis can travel to other parts of the body causing serious complications. Common signs of severe listeriosis include a severe headache, tremors and a stiff neck and confusion.
It is vital to seek medical help urgently if you are pregnant and experience a fever or chills. However, if you avoid the high-risk foods and drinks then it is extremely unlikely that you will have contracted listeriosis but it is essential to be sure.