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What is listeriosis?

Listeriosis is a rare, with an average of only 166 annual cases in England and Wales (based on numbers from 2008 to 2018), but potentially harmful infection caused by bacteria called listeria.

How can I catch listeriosis?

Listeriosis is most commonly caught when foods contaminated with listeria are consumed.  This is most commonly found in unpasteurised dairy products, soft cheeses and chilled ready-to-eat foods.

To avoid becoming infected, it is recommended that you:

  • Do wash your hands regularly, with soap and water
  • Do wash fruit and vegetables before consumption
  • Do store ready-to-eat foods in line with manufacturer recommendations
  • Do ensure all hot food is steaming hot all the way through
  • Do noteat food after its use-by date – even if it looks and smells normal

Additionally pregnant women are advised to avoid eating the following foods, which have the highest risk of causing listeriosis:

  • Some uncooked soft cheeses
  • All types of pâté
  • Unpasteurised dairy products
  • Any undercooked food

Pregnant women should also avoid coming into contact with farm animals that are giving birth or have recently given birth.

How do I know if I have listeriosis?

Listeriosis will often cause no symptoms, so it may pass without you even realising you were infected. In cases which do cause symptoms, you might experience any of the following:

  • High temperature (38C and above)
  • Aches and pains
  • Chills
  • Feeling sick or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Complications can occur when the infection spreads to the bloodstream or brain and it is thought to be more dangerous in the young, the elderly, the pregnant and those with weakened immune systems.

What do I do if I think I have listeriosis?

If you have any of the symptoms, the NHS suggest that you should usually be able to look after yourself, at home. However, if any of the following apply, they suggest that you call 111:

  • You’re pregnant and think you have listeriosis
  • You have a condition (like diabetes) or are undergoing a treatment (like chemotherapy) that weakens your immune system and think you have listeriosis
  • You think your baby might have listeriosis

In these instances you might need a blood test to diagnose the infection and antibiotics to treat it, if it is identified.

If you have any of the following symptoms, it is recommended that you call 999, or go to A&E, as they could be signs on meningitis, caused by listeriosis:

  • A severe headache and stiff neck
  • Discomfort when looking at bright lights
  • Fits (seizures)
  • Sudden confusion
  • A rash that does not fade when a glass is rolled over it – the rash may be blotchy, like bruises or small red pinpricks

 

Although listeriosis doesn’t always present symptoms or health complications, occasionally it can be much more serious and in some cases be fatal. If you think someone has served contaminated food which has led to an injury or further health complications, you may be able to claim compensation for a personal injury if they are found to be negligent of their safety standard duties. We have a team of legal experts who will help with investigations into your claim, speak to us to find out more.

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