What is listeriosis?
Listeriosis is a rare illness caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes. The Listeria bacteria are common in the environment and some raw foods. Eating foods that contain Listeria bacteria does not cause illness in most people. Although listeriosis is rare, it has a high death rate.
What are the symptoms?
How is it spread?
Listeria are widespread throughout nature, being commonly carried by many species of both domestic and wild animals. Raw meat, unpasteurised milk, raw fruit and vegetables can be contaminated with the bacteria. People who are at risk can contract listeriosis through eating food contaminated with the Listeria bacteria. Babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers eat contaminated food during the pregnancy. Outbreaks of illness have been associated with raw milk, soft cheeses, pre-prepared salads (for example, from salad bars), unwashed raw vegetables, paté, cold diced chicken and pre-cut fruit and fruit salad.
Who is at risk?
How is it prevented?
To prevent listeriosis:
- avoid high risk foods (as described below)
- thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources, such as beef, lamb, pork, or poultry
- wash raw vegetables and fruit thoroughly before eating
- keep raw meat separate from vegetables, cooked foods, and ready- to-eat foods (that is, do not allow the blood from raw meat to come into contact with other food)
- use separate cutting boards for raw meat and foods that are ready to eat (for example, cooked foods and salads)
- wash your hands before and after preparing food
- wash knives and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods
- wash your hands after handling animals
- perishable foods should be stored in a cold (less than 5 degrees Celsius) refrigerator and be washed and eaten as soon as possible.
People at increased risk of listeriosis should not eat:
- pre-packed cold salads including coleslaw and fresh fruit salad
- pre-cut fruit
- pre-cooked cold chicken
- cold delecatessen meats
- raw seafood
- smoked seafood (for example, smoked salmon)
- unpasteurised milk or milk products
- soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, ricotta, or blue-vein (unless cooked and eaten whilst hot)
- sprouted seeds and raw mushrooms
How is it diagnosed?
The diagnosis of listeriosis can be confirmed by blood or other tests requested by a doctor.
How is it treated?
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