Listeria monocytogenes Infection (cont.)
What is the prognosis for listeriosis?
Most individuals who ingest food products contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes will experience no symptoms (asymptomatic) and have an excellent prognosis.
For high-risk individuals (and the rare healthy individual) who develop listeriosis, the prognosis depends on many factors, such as the underlying state of health when infected and the severity of illness upon presentation to a health care professional. The prompt recognition and diagnosis of the illness is also important, as the timely initiation of intravenous antibiotics can also affect the prognosis and outcome. Nonetheless, even with prompt diagnosis and treatment, some cases of listeriosis are fatal. The overall mortality rate for clinical infections with Listeria monocytogenes is 20%-30%.
How do I prevent listeriosis?
Several measures can be taken to prevent contact with foods and liquids potentially contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following:
- Rinse raw produce, such as fruits and vegetables, thoroughly under running tap water before eating, cutting, or cooking. Even if the produce will be peeled, it should still be washed first.
- Separate uncooked meats and poultry from vegetables, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods.
- Wash hands, knives, countertops, and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods.
- Clean up all spills in your refrigerator right away -- especially juices from hot dog and lunchmeat packages, raw meat, and raw poultry.
- Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources, such as beef, pork, or poultry to a safe internal temperature.
- Use precooked or ready-to-eat food as soon as you can.
- Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk, and do not eat foods that have unpasteurized milk in them.
Recommendations for people at higher risk, such as pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, and older adults in addition to the recommendations listed above, include the following:
- Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, cold cuts, other deli meats (for example, bologna), or fermented or dry sausages unless they are heated to an internal temperature of 165 F or until steaming hot just before serving.
- Avoid getting fluid from hot dog and lunchmeat packages on other foods, utensils, and food preparation surfaces, and wash hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats, and deli meats.
- Do not eat refrigerated pâté or meat spreads from a deli or meat counter or from the refrigerated section of a store. Foods that do not need refrigeration, like canned or shelf-stable pâté and meat spreads, are safe to eat. Refrigerate after opening.
- Do not eat soft cheese such as feta, queso blanco, queso fresco, brie, Camembert, blue veined, or panela (queso panela) unless it is labeled as made with pasteurized milk.
- Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood, unless it is contained in a cooked dish, such as a casserole, or unless it is a canned or shelf-stable product. Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, and mackerel, is most often labeled as "nova-style," "lox," "kippered," "smoked," or "jerky." These fish are typically found in the refrigerator section or sold at seafood and deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens.
- Canned and shelf-stable tuna, salmon, and other fish products are safe to eat.
Picture of Listeria monocytogenes, the bacterium that causes listeriosis; SOURCE: CDC/Dr. Balasubr Swaminathan; Peggy Hayes
Medically reviewed by Robert Cox, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Infectious Disease
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Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2017