Food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, or parasites can be a source of many diseases. An estimated 48 million people come down with foodborne diseases annually. Researchers have identified approximately 250 types of infections and diseases that are caused by these pathogens (CDC, 2020). Listeria Monocytogenes, a rod-shaped pathogenic bacterium causes Listeriosis in an estimated 1600 people in the US every year. It replicates inside host human cells causing disease. This bacterium thrives in moist conditions prevalent in soil and decaying matter and even in refrigerators (Nutrition, 2021).
Food and Transmission
Food sources such as unpasteurized dairy products, poorly processed deli meat, and raw vegetables are considered to cause Listeriosis. The disease is transmitted through any contaminated medium including food, soil, water, air, and even pets. The disease is not considered contagious except in pregnancy where it is transferred from the mother to the unborn child. It largely spreads from contaminated food and environments (Davis, 2021).
The symptoms may begin to appear within the first three days of consuming contaminated food. Depending on the severity of the infection it may last from a few days up to six weeks (Davis, 2021).
The symptoms of the disease vary in the infected hosts based on the severity of the infection. In case of mild infection, the symptoms include fever, nausea, diarrhea, and muscular aches. Whereas; in severe infection, the bacteria invade the nervous system causing loss of balance, confusion, stiffness of the neck, and headaches.
A strong immune system offers resistance against the infection; in such instances, it may manifest mild symptoms. However, people with a compromised immune system due to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, or kidney disorder are at high risk. People above the age of 65 are also prone to severe infection due to weak immunity (Holland, 2017). Similarly, the infection can be fatal for pregnant women and the unborn child. It can also cause complications such as premature birth or miscarriage (Nutrition, 2021). It may even cause long-term health issues for babies born with the infection.
Treatment and Recovery:
Spinal fluid or blood tests are usually conducted to identify this disease-causing bacteria. The treatment generally employs antibiotics given through IV in critical circumstances. In case of a mild infection, the treatment is similar to the ones followed for any foodborne disease. This includes an increase in fluid intake and the usage of anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce fever and muscle aches (Holland, 2017). A person with mild symptoms may regain health in seven days in contrast; the severe infection may require six weeks of antibiotics for full recovery (Davis, 2021).
Listeria Monocytogenes can survive cold temperatures therefore refrigerators should be regularly cleaned and sanitized to prevent the growth of bacteria. To slow down the growth of the bacteria in refrigerators, the temperature should be set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The labels of dairy products such as cheese should be checked to ensure that they are produced from pasteurized milk (Nutrition, 2021). As the bacteria generally transmits through contaminated food and surfaces, it is vital to wash hands, scrub and wash the vegetables and fruits, and clean the surfaces and equipment used for food preparation (Holland, 2017).
Ready–to–eat food with a stable shelf life should be purchased and must be consumed quickly once they have been refrigerated. Items such as meat spreads, pâtés, and smoked seafood should not be refrigerated (Davis, 2021). Sprout varieties require moist and humid conditions to grow, and the same environment is a breeding ground for bacteria. When consuming sprouts; make sure that they are well cooked and are not eaten raw (Nutrition, 2021).
CDC. (2020, March 18). Foodborne Illnesses and Germs. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html
Davis, C. (2021, 26). Listeria (Listeriosis): Symptoms, Treatment, Foods, Prevention & Contagious. https://www.medicinenet.com/listeria/article.htm
Holland, K. (2017, April 19). Listeria Infection (Listeriosis): Symptoms, Treatment, and More. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/listeria-infection
Nutrition, C. for F. S. and A. (2021). Listeria (Listeriosis). FDA. https://www.fda.gov/food/foodborne-pathogens/listeria-listeriosis