What are the Symptoms of Listeria?

M.R. Anglin
M.R. Anglin
Deli meat can be contaminated with listeria.
Deli meat can be contaminated with listeria.

Some symptoms of Listeria infection include a fever, muscle ache, vomiting and diarrhea. Should the bacteria infect the nervous system, symptoms may also include headaches, stiff neck, confusion, a loss of balance, and convulsions. Pregnant women may only have flu-like symptoms; however a toll can be taken on the unborn child. In such cases, symptoms of Listeria infection include miscarriages, stillbirths, and a passing of the infection to the newborn. In newborns, symptoms can include a loss of appetite, lethargy, jaundice, vomiting, rashes, and difficulty in breathing.

Pregnant women are more suspectible to listeria.
Pregnant women are more suspectible to listeria.

Listeria infection occurs when the bacteria infects a human being. Healthy adults with normal immune systems are usually able to ingest some contaminated food without being affected. However, those with a compromised immune system are at higher risk of obtaining an infection. Some of the people that are at higher risk for the symptoms of Listeria include the elderly, newborns, pregnant women, and adults with a lowered immune system. It should be noted that even healthy adults may be able to contract this infection.

Beef should be thoroughly cooked to prevent Listeria infection.
Beef should be thoroughly cooked to prevent Listeria infection.

Listeria monocytogenes is a type of bacteria that is found in soil and water and can contaminate vegetables when contaminated fertilizer is used. Therefore, eating raw vegetables can lead to a person developing symptoms of Listeria infection. The bacteria can also be present in animals without them showing any symptoms. This means that some raw meats may be contaminated. Unpasteurized milk and products made from unpasteurized milk may also harbor the bacteria and lead to infection.

Unpasteuried milk may contain listeria monocytogenes.
Unpasteuried milk may contain listeria monocytogenes.

In order to stem Listeria, certain hygienic practices should be followed. Foods like pork, beef, and chicken should be thoroughly cooked before eating. Raw vegetables should be washed before eating. Ready to eat foods should be eaten as soon as possible. In addition, raw meats should be kept away from vegetables, and both should be kept away from cooked foods.

A doctor may be able to give advice on keeping the symptoms of Listeria at bay.
A doctor may be able to give advice on keeping the symptoms of Listeria at bay.

Those with high risk factors for Listeria infection should take extra care. It is possible for foods to be contaminated after cooking but before packaging. Therefore, those with high risk may find it useful to stay away from hotdogs and deli meats unless these items have been heated thoroughly before eating. Products made with unpasteurized milk should be avoided, but since pasteurization kills Listeria, pasteurized milk and pasteurized milk products can be eaten. A doctor may be able to give advice on more tips on keeping the symptoms of Listeria infection at bay.

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Discussion Comments

JaneAir

@strawCake - If you already practice good food safety habits, I wouldn't worry too much. Unless you are pregnant or have a lowered immune system for some reason.

I think pregnant women have the most cause to be concerned over Listeria. After all, it can cause miscarriage. As if there weren't enough things to worry about when you are pregnant!

strawCake

I get really nervous when I hear about food poisoning you can get from vegetables. I usually feel like I'm safe from food poisoning as long as I'm not eating undercooked meat.

I guess that isn't necessarily true though, and Listeria is a good example of this. I always wash my vegetables with vegetable wash I get from the grocery store, so I think I'm doing everything I can to avoid getting this.

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    • Deli meat can be contaminated with listeria.
      Deli meat can be contaminated with listeria.
    • Pregnant women are more suspectible to listeria.
      By: LanaK
      Pregnant women are more suspectible to listeria.
    • Beef should be thoroughly cooked to prevent Listeria infection.
      By: valery121283
      Beef should be thoroughly cooked to prevent Listeria infection.
    • Unpasteuried milk may contain listeria monocytogenes.
      By: Andrey Kuzmin
      Unpasteuried milk may contain listeria monocytogenes.
    • A doctor may be able to give advice on keeping the symptoms of Listeria at bay.
      By: pressmaster
      A doctor may be able to give advice on keeping the symptoms of Listeria at bay.
    • The elderly may experience higher risk symptoms from listeria.
      By: Mikael Damkier
      The elderly may experience higher risk symptoms from listeria.