Listeriosis Treatment and Prevention

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

What is the treatment for a Listeria infection?

Most healthy people who develop listeriosis do not need specific medical treatment. Supportive care to help relieve symptoms and to prevent dehydration are all that is needed in these cases.

Patients with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, and newborn babies are at risk for severe symptoms and are usually treated with antibiotics such as

Patients who are severely ill or who show signs of Listeria meningitis will require hospitalization and intravenous antibiotic treatment.

What is the prognosis of listeriosis?

Most people recover from infection with Listeria without any complications or lasting effects.

At-risk patients or patients who develop more severe infection may suffer long-term complications from their illness. There is a high rate of residual neurological problems among patients who survive Listeria meningitis infection.

Pregnant women who develop Listeria infections are at higher risk for spontaneous miscarriages, premature birth, or fetal death. A fetus may also become infected while in utero. Granulomatosis infantiseptica can cause abscesses and skin lesions, which can cause the neonate to be stillborn or die soon after birth.

What is the duration for a Listeria infection?

In most healthy patients, symptoms of Listeria usually only last two days and patients recover completely.

The duration of illness in patients who develop more severe Listeria infections varies widely and depends on the site of infection and the patient's health status at the time of the infection.

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Is it possible to prevent a Listeria infection?

Food safety is key in preventing Listeria infection.

  • Avoid foods made with unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Avoid eating processed meat products such as hot dogs or lunch meats unless steamed/cooked thoroughly.
  • Avoid pre-prepared salads containing meat, poultry, or egg products.
  • Cook meat, seafood, and eggs thoroughly
    • Safe internal temperatures for animal products: ground beef 160 F; chicken 170 F; turkey 180 F; pork 160 F
  • Wash produce (fruits and vegetables) before eating
  • Keep your kitchen and countertops clean
    • Wash and sanitize hands, cutting boards, and utensils, especially after handling raw foods
  • Keep the refrigerator colder than 40 F (4.4 C) and the freezer below 0 F (-18 C)

What can pregnant women do to avoid a Listeria infection?

Pregnant women should follow all food safety recommendations listed above. They should avoid all processed meats and unpasteurized dairy products, be sure to sterilize all food preparation areas, wash hands thorough before and after handling food, cook foods thoroughly, and keep the refrigerator and freezer cold. Pregnant women should discuss with their doctors what foods to avoid.

Pregnant women who develop a fever (especially accompanied by vomiting and/or diarrhea) should see their doctor. If the cause of the fever is not readily apparent, the doctor may need to run tests to eliminate the possibility of listeriosis.

REFERENCES:

Gelfand, Michael S. "Clinical Manifestations and Diagnosis of Listeria monocytogenes Infection." UpToDate.com. Nov. 2014. <http://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis-of-listeria-monocytogenes-infection?source=search_result&search=Listeriosis&selectedTitle=1~130>.

Gelfand, Michael S. "Treatment, Prognosis, and Prevention of Listeria monocytogenes Infection." UpToDate.com. Nov. 2014. <http://www.uptodate.com/contents/treatment-prognosis-and-prevention-of-listeria-monocytogenes-infection?source=search_result&search=Listeriosis&selectedTitle=2~130>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Listeria (Listeriosis)." July 31, 2014. <http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/outbreaks/cheese-02-14/index.html>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Whole Cantaloupes from Jensen Farms, Colorado." Aug. 27, 2012. <http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/outbreaks/cantaloupes-jensen-farms/index.html>.

United States. "Listeria." Foodsafety.gov. <http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/listeria/>.

Reviewed on 3/13/2017 12:00:00 AM

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