Many people who are infected with Listeria Monocytogens have only transient symptoms of headache, abdominal pain, fever, nausea and diarrhea; however some people develop a more serious invasive infection called listeriosis. Severe illness and listeriosis is more common in the young, elderly and those with weakened immune systems. In pregnant women it can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth. Anyone concerned they may be sick from consuming food contaminated with Listeria should contact their doctor to see if they need testing and or treatment. This is especially true for pregnant women given the associated risks of miscarriage and stillbirth.
This is a good reminder for pregnant women to pay attention to what you are eating not only because certain foods can carry harmful chemicals or additives, but also because the immune system is slightly weakened in pregnancy and infections that otherwise might be mild can lead to more serious complications in pregnancy. In pregnancy, listeriosis is 13 times more common than in the non-pregnant population. Dietary guidelines in pregnancy recommend avoiding certain foods that are at greater risk for transmitting Listeria Monocytogenes such as hot dogs, unpasteurized dairy products, lunch meats and cold cuts, pâté and meat spreads, refrigerated smoked seafood and unwashed fresh fruit and vegetables. All dairy products should be labeled as to whether they are pasteurized or unpasteurized and servers at a restaurant should be able to identify items that contain unpasteurized ingredients as well. Apple cider is another item that frequently is unpasteurized and should be avoided in pregnancy if unpasteurized.
If you are pregnant and have consumed foods at risk for Listeria Monocytogenes and develop flu-like symptoms of diarrhea, aches, nausea, abdominal pain and fever you should call your Ob-Gyn for guidance. There are published guidelines for how to care for pregnant women who have been exposed to Listeria Monocytogenes. Many women need nothing done; but some need to have blood tests and receive antibiotics. Whether or not a fever is associated with the symptoms really dictates the care that is needed. So be sure to take your temperature before calling your doctor if you are concerned about a possible listeria infection in pregnancy. In the meantime, hold off on eating Maytag Blue cheese if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant in the near future and double check that all foods you are consuming are safe in pregnancy. Unfortunately, listeria is not the only food borne illness that pregnant women need to be cautious about. The FDA is a good place to get information about food recalls as well as obtain additional information on food safety and preparation in pregnancy. Learn more here.
Rosanna Gray-Swain, MD, is a member of BJC Medical Group and a part of the West End OB-GYN practice. The practice is located at 1110 Highlands Plaza, Suite 280, St. Louis, MO and can be reached at 314-286-2620. Dr. Gray-Swain is accepting new patients, so BOOK today!