Sunday, August 19, 2012


Listeria monocytogenes is a weird bacterium. It may barely affect some people but can kill others. It is also unusual in another way: symptoms are likely to turn up anywhere from three to 70 days after you are exposed (some estimates say one to 90 days!). The third way it is atypical is the symptoms of illness themselves are more like the 'flu than what one would expect from food poisoning. That makes Listeriosis (the disease caused) not only selectively dangerous but very difficult to diagnose.

During the last few weeks, this tricky bacterium has been found in several foods in the U.S. Yes, it has turned up in some cheeses, which is fairly common. But it has also been found in foods such as cantaloupes, honeydew melons and white mushrooms (and prepared foods made with these mushrooms)which is far less usual. In fact, it is becoming very difficult to avoid it.

So who should be most worried? Pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems (for example: people on cancer treatment or steroids and people with diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease and HIV infection). In the case of pregnant women, eating food contaminated with a sufficient number of these bacteria can cause miscarriages and still births.

If you belong to one of these groups, you need to be extra careful in what you eat and how you prepare your food, not just during outbreaks, but all the time (see next post for some guidance).

To your good health,


No comments: