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Neonatal Problems: Listeriosis


Listeriosis , a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes , has recently been recognised as an important public health problem in the United States. The disease affects primarily pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. It can be avoided by following a few simple recommendations.
Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis. Indeed, about one-third of listeriosis cases happen during pregnancy. Newborns rather than the pregnant women themselves suffer the serious effects of infection in pregnancy.
You get listeriosis by eating food contaminated with Listeria . Babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers eat contaminated food during pregnancy.

Symptoms and Signs

A person with listeriosis has fever, muscle aches, and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhoea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur.

Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infections during pregnancy can lead to premature delivery , infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth .

Diagnosis and Treatment

There is no routine screening test for susceptibility to listeriosis during pregnancy. A blood test is the most reliable way to find out if a mothers' symptoms are due to listeriosis.
When infection occurs during pregnancy, antibiotics given promptly to the pregnant woman can often prevent infection of the foetus or newborn.

Recommendations for persons at high risk, such as pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems include:

  • Avoid soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, and Mexican-style cheese. (Hard cheesed, processed cheeses, cream cheese, cottage cheese, or yoghurt need not be avoided.)
  • Leftover foods or ready-to-eat foods, such as hot dogs, should be cooked until steaming hot before eating.
  • Although the risk of listeriosis associated with foods from deli counters is relatively low, pregnant women and immunosupressed persons may choose to avoid these foods or thoroughly reheat cold cuts before eating.

For further, more detailed information on this topic, please refer to the reference source for this page.

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Division of Parasitic Diseases:

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