Also known as listeriosis, a listeria infection is a food-borne illness that can cause symptoms similar to that of the common cold, or produce a range of aches and pains that are quite severe. In many cases, people may encounter this type of infection and never know they had it, since the body’s immune system can often deal with the infection in a short amount of time. However, women who develop listeria during pregnancy, as well as anyone with a compromised immune system, could suffer severe symptoms from listeria infection and possibly die from the complications caused by the infection.
There are several ways that food can become contaminated with listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria that leads to the infection. The bacteria can be absorbed from the surrounding soil, be carried by the water used to grow the plants, or picked up from animals that graze in the area where the plants are cultivated. In addition from being exposed to the bacteria through consuming plants, humans can catch a listeria infection from consuming foods made with parts of an infected animal or consuming unpasteurized milk or any dairy product produced by an infected animal. Along with the usual symptoms of food poisoning, the presence of the listeria infection begins to slowly impact the ability of the immune system to fight and subdue all types of infections.
When a listeria infection is present, many of the symptoms will resemble those of the common cold or flu. These include running a temperature, a general sense of nausea, headaches, stiffness in the neck and other areas, a decreased sense of balance, and vomiting. While mild cases will usually run their course in a few days, more aggressive cases may require medical attention before the infection is successfully subdued.
When over the counter cold remedies do not help to alleviate the symptoms, the individual should see a doctor, who can determine if the discomfort is from a cold or flu bug, or is actually a listeria infection. If the tests indicate the presence of this type of infection, antibiotics are the usual course of treatment. In severe situations, it may be necessary to administer the antibiotics intravenously during a hospital stay.
People with weakened immune systems or women who are pregnant should seek immediate medical treatment if they suspect that a listeria infection is present. When the immune system is not capable of subduing the infection on its own, it can quickly spread to vital organs around the body, causing a number of health complications. In like manner, a pregnant woman with listeria infection can easily pass the infection on to the unborn child, leading to complications at birth and during the first several days of life.