The Center of Disease Control and Prevention has declared there to be a listeria outbreak following 23 cases, including 1 death, from the disease.
While a specific food item has yet to be identified as responsible for the spread, investigations have revealed Florida to be the main source of infection.
In the wake of the outbreak, it is important to know what listeria is, how infection is spread, what common symptoms are and how to protect yourself.
What is listeria and how is it contracted?
According to the CDC, listeria is a "serious infection" caused by the bacterium listeria monocytogenes.
This bacteria is most commonly found in foods that are ingested and result in infection.
It is estimated that listeria is the third leading cause of food poisoning in the United States.
Who is most affected?
Every year, around 1,600 people are infected with listeria and of these, around 260 people die as a result.
Those who are pregnant, above the age of 65 or have a weakened immune system are most vulnerable to the disease.
While all others can still be infected with listeria, they are rarely affected as intensely as those listed above.
What are common symptoms of listeria?
Listeria can manifest itself in two ways: an intestinal illness or an invasive illness.
The lesser of the two, an intestinal illness, is rarely diagnosed as it is a very mild infection.
This can be understood as a common case of food poisoning— those infected will typically experience diarrhea or vomiting.
Symptoms will usually begin within 24 hours after eating a contaminated food, and can last up to 3 days.
An invasive illness, on the other hand, is developed after the bacteria has spread beyond the intestine, or gut. Common symptoms depend on whether the infected person is pregnant.
For those who are pregnant, symptoms are usually mild or even nonexistent. In some cases, however, infection can result in detrimental effects to the newborn such as miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery or life-threatening infection.
For those who are not pregnant, common symptoms are comparable to those of a flu: fever, muscle aches and fatigue. In severe cases, they can also experience headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and seizures.
All infected people will typically experience symptoms within 2 weeks of eating a contaminated food.
How is listeria treated?
Intestinal illnesses usually recover with no medical interference, but are encouraged to drink extra fluids.
Invasive illnesses are treated with antibiotics.
What are some ways I can keep myself protected from contracting listeria?
In most recent years, listeria outbreaks have been linked to dairy products and produce.
While shopping for these and all other food products, everyone is encouraged to be aware of risky foods and follow the recommendations of Food Safety, which can be found here.
In addition, people are encouraged to be cautious when storing and preparing foods.