Since the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, infectious diseases is at the top of everyone's mind, especially during the winter months when sickness is more likely. However, some diseases are not spread through touch or inhaling a molecule in the air while around a bunch of people. Some diseases can be ingested through the food we eat. While of lot of them will cause some abdominal discomfort for a day or so, there is one such disease that can really make us sick, or in rare cases, cause death.

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Listeria is a foodborne bacterial illness. It is caused by eating improperly processed deli meats and unpasteurized milk products. For the most part, we can fight off the listeria bacteria. However, there is a select group of people that fall very ill to the bacterial infection to the point that some have died. While properly freezing or refrigerating foods is the best way to prevent bacteria growth in food, listeria thrives in freezing and refrigeration.

Who is most susceptible to listeria infection?

A healthy human can naturally resist listeria if it is ingested. However, a certain group of people may not be able to fight it off as easily:

  • Anyone older than 65
  • Those with weakened immune systems
  • Women who are pregnant
  • Newborns

If you do become infected with listeria, it can be fought off with an antibiotic treatment.

Symptoms of Listeria

How do you know if you have become infected with listeria? The symptoms of listeria could be confused with having the flu:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

There is even the possibility that listeria could spread to your nervous system with these symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion or changes in alertness
  • Loss of balance
  • Convulsions

Pregnant Women and Listeria

If you are pregnant, listeria could be devastating to your unborn child. While your symptoms could be mild, listeria could cause the baby to die in the womb or cause a life-threatening infection within the first few days of birth. A newborn infected with listeria could have these symptoms:

  • Doesn't want to feed
  • Irritable
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty Breathing

Listeria Cases in Texas

So far in 2024, there have been 26 reports of listeria infection across 11 states, including Texas. 23 of those reported cases had to be hospitalized. 2 of those reported cases sadly passed away. Those cases are linked to queso fresco that is used in several products including Caesar dressing and Cotija dressing sold at H-E-B and Marketside Southwest Chopped Salad Kit and Bacon Ranch Crunch Salad Kit sold at Walmart. These products were recalled (CDC).

What should you do if you think you may be infected?

Call you doctor immediately. Listeria can be treated using antibiotics but must be monitored to make sure the infection does not get any worse.

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