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Listeria infection can be serious when it occurs in newborn babies, the elderly, immune suppressed people and pregnant women
Bacterial infection caused by Listeria monocytogenes is called listeriosis.
Listeria infection is a notifiable condition1
These bacteria are widespread in nature, being found in soil, decaying vegetation and the bowels of many mammals.
Listeria infection is mainly spread by eating contaminated foods. Unlike most bacteria, Listeria can multiply in refrigerated foods, if they have been contaminated. Contact with infected farm animals, particularly stillborn animals, can also spread the infection.
Foods associated with the spread of Listeria include:
People are probably frequently exposed to Listeria, with only mild illness resulting. However, infection is more serious when it occurs in newborn babies, the elderly, immune suppressed people and pregnant women.
Symptoms may include:
Pregnant women may have relatively mild symptoms (fever and aches) and make a quick recovery. However, they may transfer the infection to their unborn child who may be stillborn or born very ill.
The diagnosis is made by growing the bacteria from a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (cerebrospinal fluid: the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord), blood or from samples taken from the baby.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
Varies from 3 to 70 days. The average is 3 weeks.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
Except for transmission from a pregnant woman to her fetus, person-to-person spread does not occur.
Antibiotic treatment and hospital admission may be required.
Exclusion from childcare, preschool, school and work is not necessary.
Pregnant women and immune suppressed people should take special care to avoid foods which may be contaminated with Listeria. They should follow these guidelines:
1 – In South Australia the law requires doctors and laboratories to report some infections or diseases to SA Health. These infections or diseases are commonly referred to as 'notifiable conditions'.