For women who are contemplating pregnancy:
Listeriosis is an uncommon illness caused by the organism Listeria monocytogenes. Listeriosis seriously affects 1850 people annually in the USA, resulting in 425 deaths. Pregnant women have 20-times the risk of Listeriosis compared to the nonpregnant population. Approximately 1/3 of cases of Listeriosis occur during pregnancy. Usually the pregnant woman suffers only a mild, flu-like illness; however, premature delivery, stillbirth or neonatal infection may occur. Women with twins or triplets may be at higher risk. Since the late 1980s, statistics have shown significant reductions in the number of cases, especially during pregnancy. Antibiotic therapy can successfully treat maternal and fetal infections.
Listeria are common organisms found in soil, water, dust, produce, processed foods, and animal and human feces. Although most reported cases of human Listeriosis have been sporadic, occasionally epidemic common-source outbreaks can occur with the most likely source of infection being from contaminated food. Some cases have been liked to coleslaw, unpasteurized milk, soft and Mexican-style cheese, pate, pork, tongue, turkey franks and delicatessen foods.
Below are listed some recommendations to reduce your risk of Listeriosis (adapted from CDC Division of Media Relations, 12/25/98):
- Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources (e.g., beef, pork, poultry)
- Thoroughly wash raw vegetables before eating
- Keep uncooked meats separate from vegetables, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods
- Avoid unpasteurized milk or foods made from raw milk
- Wash hands, knives and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods
- Avoid soft cheeses (e.g., feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, and Mexican-style cheese); hard cheese, processed cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese or yogurt may be eaten
- Hot leftover foods or ready-to-eat foods (e.g., hot dogs)