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Foodborne diseases are the illnesses that caused from contaminated food. There are more than 250 diseases which are caused by viruses, bacteria, toxins and metals. Botulism, Brucellosis, E.coli, Hepatitis A,and Listeriosis. Usually, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local public health authorities control the quality of food to prevent foodborne diseases. (United States Department of Labor, n.d) Listeriosis is a disease that caused by a gram-positive rod-shaped bacteria which is known as Listeria. This type of bacteria can survive under anaerobic (without oxygen) or aerobic (with oxygen) condition. Among six species of Listeria, only Listeria monocytogenes can cause diseases in humans. (About Listeria, 2013) It can found in soil, water, animal faeces and food. (MayoClinic, 2011) Usually, food that is contaminated with listeria such as unpasteurized milk, cheese that are made from unpasteurized milk, vegetables which grow in contaminated soil or they are washed in contaminated water, and meat from infected animals can cause listeriosis. Processed food such as hot dogs will also get contaminated after processing. Unlike other bacteria, listeria can survive in low temperatures such as below 5oC. So, this means that listeria can still able to grow in fridge. (NHS, 2011) It also multiplies best at 30 to 37oc. (About Listeria, 2013)
Listeria bacteria can be transmitted through animals or food. Listeria is found widely in water, soil, vegetables or animals. The bacteria is mostly transmitted through food to human. Listeria monocytogenes bacteria are usually spread through ready-to-eat foods (RTE) like hot dogs, refrigerator smoked seafood, soft cheese and meats. Furthermore, listeria can survive in the digestive systems of animals without causing sickness. However, it will spread to the meat and we also get infected after we eat the meat. Other than that, the bacteria also can be passed among plant to plant, animal to human. For example, listeria can be spread person to person in hospital or nursery. Listeria monocytogenes can be transmitted from parents. Infants can get the listeria when it transmits from mother to foetus via placenta. Direct contact with listeria can cause lesions on the skin such as arms or hands. Besides that, although it is rarely seen, listeria also can be transmitted through sexual contact. (UFL, 2012) Inhalation of listeria is also another type of infection.
According to Dr. Allison McGeer, an an infectious disease microbiologist with Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, the prevalence of listeriosis is about 20 cases in one million people. (CBC News, 2011) 1-10% of humans may be intestinal carriers of Listeria monocytogenes. (RD, 2012), the incidence of listeriosis had decreased about 38%by 2003. However, the diseases and deaths continue to happen. Before 2011, the largest outbreak occurred in 2002 which caused 54 illnesses, 8 deaths and 3 fatal deaths in 9 states through consumption of infected turkey deli meat. Recently, in the past year, 2012, there was an outbreak which was associated with imported Frescolina Marte Brand Ricotta Salata Cheese in 14 states. There were 22 persons infected, 20 ill persons were hospitalized and 4 deaths. (CDC, 2012) Anyone can get listeriosis, however, there are some people that have higher risk to get this diseases. Usually, people who have weak immune system such as elderly, pregnant women and their unborn babies, newborn babies and people with certain diseases such as AIDS, HIV, cancer, diabetes, liver disease or alcoholism. People who receive medication such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy that can weaken their immune system also can get listeriosis. (NHS, 2011) They are more vulnerable to fight against the bacteria. Organ transplant patients also easily to get listeriosis as they have to take medication that can make sure their body do not reject the organ. (Foodsafety.gov, n.d)
There are some symptoms that can be seen through listeriosis. People who get infected usually will have fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea. These symptoms may be developed to meningitis, mental changes, brain abscesses or death. Generally, symptoms can be divided into two parts which are mild and worsening. Symptoms of mild insteriosis are slightly different with worsening symptoms. People who get mild insteriosis will have abdominal pain, cough, diarrhea, nausea, anorexia or fatigue whereas symptoms of severe symptoms of insteriosis include loss of consciousness, stiff neck, pain during urination, difficulties in breathing and repeated vomiting. (freemd, 2010) The symptoms of the disease may appear suddenly, 1 day after or up to 90 days after eating food contaminated with listeria. (Canada.com, 2010) Infection during pregnancy can be particularly harmful. It can either lead to mild or severe signs. This disease will cause premature labor, miscarriage and not only that, newborns will also get effect and infected heavily. (About Listeria, 2013) Placenta supplies nutrition and oxygen to the foetus whereas amniotic fluid protects lubrication. All these are connected with the mother, so if any of this is infected, they cannot work properly and stop giving nutrition to the foetus. (Livestrong.com, 2010) In the end, the babies may die before birth because of improper growth or have low birth weight, meningitis after birth. Listeria grows best in the central nervous system. Thus, listeria monocytogenes causes encephalitis or meningitis.
In order to prevent from getting infected by listeria, there are some rules need to be followed. First, always keep the food in a safe and clean environment. For example, always make sure that the kitchen is always clean. Avoid from storing the ready-to-eat food in the refrigerator. This will cause contamination. Not only that, cook the food especially meat thoroughly to kill the bacteria. We can use a food thermometer to make sure the food is cooked to a safe temperature. (MayoClinic, 2011) Besides that, there are some recommendation for washing and handling food by FDA. First, rinse the raw foods such as fruits and vegetables under tap water. After that, we can scrub some certain food such as cucumbers with clean brush. Then, dry it with paper towel or clean cloth. Lastly, separate uncooked and raw meats from vegetables, fruits and cooked foods as the listeria from raw food will infect the food nearby. There are some foods that should be avoided especially for those who have high risk of getting listeriosis such as meats, cheese that are made from unpasteurized milk, and refrigerator smoked seafood. (CDC, 2012) Furthermore, always wash our hand after contact with animals in farm, bathroom and before handling and eating any food. This can prevent the infection from spreading. (MDH, n.d) Usually, listeriosis can be treated with antibiotics such as ampicillin or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazol which is prescribed to kill the bacteria. Treatment for babies is same as adults. However, babies are recommended to be kept in intensive care unit (ICU). (The New York Times, 2013) Generally, people who have only mild listeriosis require no treatment compare to the serious one.
In conclusion, Listeriosis is a rare disease that can be either mild or worsening. It is serious if pregnant have this kind of disease because the mother will infect the babies. It is very important to make sure we do not spread the disease to others. A blood test is required to determine whether we have the infection. Besides blood test, samples of urine or spinal fluid may be tested too. (Mayoclinic, 2011) Stools samples are rarely used and not recommended. Further testing is only needed if the infection has spread to the nervous system. Tests such as computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and lumbar puncture. Lumbar puncture is used to determine sample of fluid from spinal cord. Listeriosis is found in the environment so this means that everyone have the chance to get infected as they are exposed to it. (CDC, 2012) Thus, everyone should have awareness on the disease. Always handle the food with clean hand and eat the food wisely. Try not to eat the food that has higher chance to get contaminated such as hot dogs, smoked seafood or deli meat.