Deli meats are precooked or cured meats that are sliced and served cold or hot, such as salami, mortadella, and prosciutto. Although many enjoy Deli meats as they are delicious, they may not be healthy enough.
Now, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to deli meats.
What is listeria monocytogenes infection and how does it spread?
Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterium that lives in the soils, water, and animal feces. The germ could cause Listeriosis, a serious infection that primarily affects pregnant women, newborns, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
Most frequently, people get infected with listeria monocytogenes after eating contaminated foods or drinks. Common sources of the germs include:
· Dairy products, such as unpasteurized cheese or milk
· Animal meat that may be contaminated with animal feces, such as hot dogs, refrigerated meats and deli meats
· Raw vegetables or fruits that have been contaminated with soils or animal feces
Common symptoms of listeria infection
People usually become ill several hours to a few days after eating contaminated food. The symptoms can vary from mild to severe and last several days to a few weeks. Common symptoms include nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever.
Sometimes, the listeria in the gut can spread to other body organs and cause severe consequences. For example, the listeria bacteria can spread to the brain and cause meningitis or even blood poisoning. If the patient is a pregnant woman, it may even cause miscarriages or stillbirth.
How to treat listeria infection?
For patients with mild symptoms, home treatment with drinking plenty of water and taking painkillers to control the pain may be sufficient. If the symptoms are severe, then hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics and fluids would be necessary.
Pregnant women with listeria infection should be treated at the hospital. In addition to treating the listeria bacteria, the doctor would also closely monitor the baby’s status for signs of distress.
How to prevent listeria infection?
Listeria bacteria could survive cold temperatures but can be killed by heat (165°F or 73.8°C). Thus, the most important way to prevent it is cooking at temperatures over 165°F (73.8°C). in addition, unpasteurized dairy products should be avoided. For pregnant women, it is advised to avoid foods that are often associated with listeria infections, such as Deli meats, smoked fish, unpasteurized cheese and processed meats.