Listeria - Symptoms, causes and treatment

Listeria is an infection caused by consuming food or drink contaminated with bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria can cause mild symptoms, such as nausea and diarrhea, to severe symptoms, such as inflammation of the brain.

Listeria is harmless in healthy individuals and usually causes only mild symptoms. However, this infection can be dangerous in the elderly, people with weak immune systems, and people with certain diseases.

Listeria can also be dangerous for pregnant women, because it can infect the fetus in the womb. This condition can cause miscarriage until the baby dies in the womb (stillbirth).

Causes of Listeria

Listeria is caused by a bacterial infection Listeria monocytogenes that live in water, soil, and animal waste. These bacteria can infect humans through food or drink, such as:

  • Raw vegetables from soil contaminated with bacteria
  • Packaged food products that are contaminated with bacteria after the production process
  • Unpasteurized milk or its derivatives
  • Animal meat contaminated with bacteria

BacteriaListeria can survive in the refrigerator orfreezer, so putting food in that place does not guarantee that the food is free from bacteria.

Listeria Risk Factors

Listeria can be experienced by anyone, but is more at risk of attacking the following groups of people:

  • Pregnant women and their unborn babies
  • Elderly people or aged 65 years and over
  • People with AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease and alcoholism
  • Patients who are taking immune-lowering drugs, such as prednisone
  • Patients undergoing chemotherapy

Listeria Symptoms

Listeria symptoms can appear within days or months after the sufferer eats food contaminated with the bacteria Listeria. Some of the symptoms that often appear are:

  • Nauseous
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Shivering
  • Muscle ache

Listeria bacteria can spread to the nervous system, especially in young children, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems. If this happens, the symptoms that appear can include:

  • Stiff neck
  • Headache
  • Lost balance
  • daze
  • Seizures

When to go to the doctor

Check with your doctor if you experience the above symptoms, especially if you belong to a group of people who are at high risk of developing listeria.

Be alert and immediately consult a doctor if you experience severe headaches, stiff neck and absent-mindedness. These complaints can indicate serious complications due to listeria.

Listeria Diagnosis

To make a diagnosis, the doctor will ask about the symptoms experienced and what foods the patient consumed before the symptoms appeared. Then, the doctor will perform a physical examination, followed by examination of samples of blood, urine, and amniotic fluid for pregnant women.

Doctors can also carry out further examinations if the patient's infection is severe enough. These inspections can be in the form of:

  • Chest X-ray
  • brain MRI
  • Echocardiography
  • Lumbar puncture

Listeria Treatment

Listeria treatment depends on the severity of the patient's condition. Patients who experience mild symptoms usually do not require special treatment and get better on their own.

In patients with severe symptoms, pregnant women, and newborns infected with listeria, treatment should be carried out in a hospital. The doctor will give you an infusion of antibiotics to treat the infection and prevent complications.

Listeria Treatment

In some cases, listeria can cause serious complications, such as:

  • Premature birth
  • Miscarriage
  • stillbirth
  • brain abscess
  • Infection of the inner lining of the heart (endocarditis)
  • Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis)
  • Inflammation of the lining of the brain (meningitis)
  • Sepsis

Listeria Prevention

Listeria infection can be prevented by taking the following steps:

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap before and after preparing food.
  • Wash raw fruits and vegetables under running water.
  • Clean cooking utensils with warm water and soap before and after use.
  • Cook the food until it is completely cooked. If necessary, use a food thermometer to make sure the inside of the food is cooked.
  • Preheat the food you want to eat.
  • Clean the inside of the refrigerator regularly with warm water and soap to kill bacteria.

Especially for pregnant women and people with low immune systems, you should avoid consuming food or drinks, such as:

  • Salad
  • Hot dog
  • Ham or other processed meat, unless packaged in cans
  • Unpasteurized milk and processed products made from it, such as cheese
  • Smoked milkfish or food seafood other smoke that has been stored in the refrigerator