Listeriosis: Spotting the Signs
If you've been reading the papers lately, you'll be aware that there has been a deadly listeria outbreak across the UK, prompting a massive recall of frozen food from supermarket shelves. More than fifty frozen products have been withdrawn so far and this number is set to rise - but what is 'Listeriosis' and what are the symptoms of eating dodgy, contaminated veg?
Listeriosis is an uncommon infection caused by bacteria called listeria. It tends to go away by itself, but can cause serious problems if you're pregnant or have a weak immune system. This makes the elderly particularly vulnerable. So far, there have been two deaths linked to the current outbreak.
According to the EFSA, strains of the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria were found in frozen vegetables that had been produced by a Hungarian company in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
How you catch listeriosis
In short, Listeriosis is caught predominantly by eating food containing listeria bacteria.
You can get it from several of types of food, but it's mainly a problem with:
dairy products made from unpasteurised milk
soft cheeses, like camembert and brie
chilled ready-to-eat foods, like prepacked sandwiches, pâté and deli meats
You can also catch listeriosis from:
someone else who has it – for example, if you eat food they've handled when they haven't washed their hands
close contact with farm animals – especially sheep and cows that are giving birth
Symptoms of listeriosis
In most people, listeriosis has no symptoms or only causes mild symptoms for a few days, such as:
a high temperature of 38C or above
aches and pains
feeling sick or vomiting
In more severe cases, symptoms such as acute headaches, seizures, blotchy rashes and difficulty looking at bright lights could be signs that the listeriosis has triggered meningitis.
In this instance, the NHS recommends calling 999 or going to A&E immediately.
Listeria can be killed by thoroughly cooking product to 165ºF/74ºC. Unsurprisingly, freezing the product will not kill the bacteria, hence the current crisis.
Would you know how to deal the onset of Listeriosis? Are you a healthcare professional?
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