Listeria: What you need to know
The current outbreak is one of the worst in decades and it stems from contaminated cantaloupe at Jensen Farms in Colorado. So far 18 people have died. 72 people have become ill and over 300,000 melons may have been affected and recalled.
So What is Listeriosis?
Listeriosis is a gram positive bacteria which penetrates and replicates inside our cells. It is a very hardy organism and is capable of enduring temperatures as low as 39.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmth of our body literally melts the outer shell and increases virulence.
Who is at risk?
Listeria is a particular problem for those that are immunocompromised, elderly or pregnant. Pregnant women are 20 times more likely to contract an infection than that of the general public. Pregnant woman can also pass along the infection to their newborns.
Symptoms can vary from simple gastrointestinal distress and headaches to severe flu-like symptoms and loss of balance. In severe cases convulsions and seizures may occur.
What makes listeria so dangerous?
Every year there are approximately 250 deaths and 2500 hundred cases. Unlike other gastrointestinal illnesses such as salmonella and E. Coli- which can become symptomatic after 1-3 days- Listeria can take between 1-8 weeks before symptoms appear. So some people may not know until late October whether they have contracted the bacteria.
What to do if you suspect exposure
If you suspect you might have come in contact with a contaminated melon seek our medical care immediately.
Maintain strict habits around the kitchen. Clean surfaces and spills quickly. Separate meats and vegetables. Wash fruits and vegetables carefully. Eat left overs quickly. Wash refrigerator and refrigerator handles with bleach to kill the bacteria. Avoid soft cheeses and unpasteurized milk products particularly if you fall into one of the above at risk groups.
In mild cases, rest and plenty of fluids as it runs its course. If a severe infection is suspected, it can be treated early with antibiotics such as ampicillin.