Thursday, September 15, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions: Listeria 'listeriosis'

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(KRQE) - New Mexico is one of the four states affected by the outbreak of listeriosis, here are answers to frequently asked questions on listeriosis.
What is listeriosis?

Listeriosis, a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, is a major public health problem in the United States. The disease mainly affects the elderly, pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems. However, on rare occasions, people without risk factors may also be affected. The risk can be reduced by following some simple guidelines.

What are the symptoms of listeriosis?

Listeriosis is usually a person with fever and body aches, often preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Almost all those who are diagnosed with listeriosis is "invasive" infections in which bacteria spread to the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms range from an infected person:

Pregnant women: Pregnant women usually experience only a mild flu-like illness. However, infections during pregnancy cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth or life-threatening infection of the newborn.

Any non-pregnant women: symptoms, as well as fever and muscle aches, headaches may include stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions.
How big is the risk of listeriosis?

United States, an estimated 1,600 people become seriously ill with listeriosis each year. Of these, 260 die. The following groups are at higher risk:

Pregnant women: Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis. About one in six (17%) cases of listeriosis in pregnancy.

Infants: Infants are suffering the most serious consequences of infection during pregnancy.

People with weakened immune systems of transplant organs or certain medical conditions, treatments or medications.

People with cancer, diabetes, alcoholism, liver or kidney disease.

People with AIDS are almost 300 times more likely to get listeriosis than people with normal immune systems.

Older adults

Healthy adults and children occasionally get infected with Listeria, but they rarely become seriously ill.

How Listeria get into food?
Listeria monocytogenes is found in soil and water. Animals can carry the bacterium without appearing ill and can contaminate foods of animal origin such as meat and dairy products. When Listeria in a food processing plant that can live for years, sometimes contaminate food. The bacterium was found in a variety of raw foods like raw vegetables and meat as well as foods that are contaminated after cooking or processing, such as soft cheeses, processed meats such as sausages and meats (both packaged products factory sealed products sold at deli counters), and smoked seafood. Unpasteurized (raw) milk and cheese and other foods made from unpasteurized milk are especially likely to contain the bacteria.

Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking, but in some ready to eat foods like hot dogs and deli meats, contamination may occur after cooking but before packaging plant. Unlike most bacteria, Listeria can grow and multiply in foods in the refrigerator.

How do you get listeriosis?

You get listeriosis by eating food contaminated with Listeria. Babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers eat contaminated food during pregnancy. However, healthy persons may consume contaminated foods without becoming ill. People at risk can prevent Listeria infection by avoiding certain high-risk foods and handling food properly.

May have prevented listeriosis?

The general guidelines recommended for the prevention of listeriosis are similar to those used to prevent other foodborne illnesses, such as Salmonella. In addition, there are specific recommendations for people at high risk of listeriosis.
How can you reduce your risk of contracting listeriosis?

Here are some general tips on how to prevent infection with Listeria, and some of the other recommendations, particularly those who are at high risk. General Recommendations:

Cook raw foods of animal origin such as beef, pork or poultry to a safe internal temperature. For a list of recommended temperatures for meats.

Wash raw vegetables thoroughly under running water before eating.
Keep raw meats and poultry separate from vegetables and from cooked and ready to eat foods.

Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk and do not eat foods that have unpasteurized milk them.

Wash hands, knives, counters and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods and preparation.

Consume perishable and ready to eat foods as soon as possible.


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