You're pregnant '- and it's quite possible that you're thinking about food safety for the very first time. As pregnant women are sometimes at greater risk when it comes to these issues, now is an ideal time to take a moment to learn about listeriosis.
What is Listeriosis?
Listeria monocytogenes is a harmful bacterium that can be found in refrigerated foods such as meat, poultry, seafood and unpasteurized dairy products. It's also found in contaminated water and soil. We usually expect food that has been properly stored in a refrigerator to be safe, but the listeria bacterium can live quite nicely in colder temperatures. Animals that carry listeria can enter the food chain because they may not appear ill. When humans consume those bacteria, they may become ill '- and a pregnant woman and her fetus are particularly susceptible.
You can come into contact with the listeria organism not only by consuming food directly contaminated with it, but also by eating food that was prepared under unsanitary conditions or that was grown in soil where contaminated fertilizer was used.
What Are the Risks and Symptoms of Listeriosis?
In the United States, an estimated 2,500 people become seriously ill with listeriosis each year, and 500 of them die. In most cases, the maternal immune response is strong enough to fight off the infection, but women become especially vulnerable during the last trimester of pregnancy, when immunity can be lower. In fact, pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis.