Danger of Listeria contamination

Published: Oct. 14, 2016 at 6:11 AM CDT
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Listeria is bacteria that can cause food-borne illness, known as listeriosis.

The bacteria can grow in foods such as uncooked meats and vegetables, soft cheeses and unpasteurized milk.

Doctor Steven Gordon of Cleveland Clinic says that although listeria isn't very common, it can be very dangerous.

"In terms of actual cases it's the probably on the lower side of incidence in the United States estimates maybe less than two-thousand cases a year. However, it has the highest, what we would say, fatality or hospitalization rate," explains Dr. Gordon.

Listeriosis is the third leading cause of death from food poisoning, according to the u-s centers for disease control.

The CDC says that between 2009 and 2011, the bacteria was responsible for more than fifteen-hundred illnesses and about three-hundred deaths.

The disease is most dangerous to pregnant women and their babies, as well as people with weakened immune systems and those over age sixty-five.

Symptoms of listeriosis are flu-like and can include headaches and muscle aches, fever, nausea and vomiting.

Unlike many other bacteria, listeria is capable of growing even while in the cold temperatures of a refrigerator.

Dr. Gordon says that because food providers take great caution in food safety practices, we are seeing more recalls of food products, based on cultures or samples that show unacceptable levels of listeria, even if no disease has been found.

"It is one of those things obviously because of the fact when it does cause illness most people are hospitalized and can cause severe disease it gets a lot of attention in that regard, but I do believe that there is increased awareness from the food providers and from safety which is good for all of us," says Dr. Gordon.

According to the CDC, if a person has eaten food contaminated with listeria and does not have any symptoms, most experts believe that no tests or treatment are needed. However, those who have symptoms within two months of eating contaminated food should seek medical care.