You may be taking a break from some of your favorite snacks lately, due to recent concerns over listeria bacteria in food products. Just this week, varieties of Blue Bell Ice Cream were recalled over listeria concerns, and earlier this month, Sabra Hummus was pulled from store shelves after a package in Michigan tested positive for the bacteria.
Listeria is a food-borne, bacterial infection that most often is passed through unpasteurized dairy products and deli meats that haven’t been processed properly. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, listeria can survive refrigeration, making it more important to avoid foods that can breed the harmful bacteria. Other foods that may contain listeria include soft cheeses like brie or camembert, raw sprouts, refrigerated smoked seafood, pates and meat spreads, and hot dogs.
While most people will not be affected by the bacteria, we at AFC Urgent Care want those most at risk for listeria infections — pregnant women, older adults and people with compromised immune systems — to be aware of the signs and symptoms of this bacterial infection. According to the Mayo Clinic, issues may begin a few days after eating tainted food, but it can take as long as two months for symptoms to show.
Common listeria symptoms include fevers, aching muscles, nausea and diarrhea. More severe symptoms can occur if the bacterial infection goes undetected, spreading to the nervous system, and in some cases, causing bacterial meningitis. If you notice any of the signs below, seek medical attention immediately. Signs that the infection has progressed include:
- Stiff neck
- Confusion or changes in alertness
- Loss of balance
Since pregnant women are susceptible to listeria infection, newborns are at risk, too. If you notice your infant showing any of the signs below, seek emergency care immediately, as the infection can be fatal.
- Little interest in feeding
Early treatment with antibiotics can help keep a listeria infection from becoming severe and life-threatening. But the best defense is a good offense, so taking precautions against the bacteria can help keep you and your family safe and out of the doctor’s office. Here are some tips to help prevent listeria infections.
- Avoid unpasteurized or raw milk, as well as foods that may contain raw milk.
- Heat processed meats like hot dogs and deli meats before eating them.
- Cook any raw meats and seafood thoroughly, making sure they reach the proper internal temperature.
- Don’t wait to eat perishable foods; consume them as soon as possible.
- Separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods to prevent bacteria from growing and spreading.
- Thorough washing is key to preventing listeria infections. Wash all produce under running water, and promptly wash cutting boards, knives and surfaces that may have come in contact with raw food after use.
As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so keep these tips in mind the next time you’re cooking for your household. But don’t hesitate to come pay us a visit if you think someone in your family has been exposed to listeria. We’re here to help!