A listeria infection, also called listeriosis is a food-borne illness that produces flu-like symptoms. Parents of children who get listeria infections often mistake the illness for the flu and never realise that their child has had listeriosis.
What causes listeria infections?
Listeria infections are caused by Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, which can be found in food that hasn’t been properly handled, stored, or prepared. Listeria is a rather rare infection.
Are listeria infections serious?
Listeria infections are generally mild. Most kids get flu-like symptoms and then recover fully. Listeriosis is most dangerous for pregnant women and kids with compromised immune systems. In these people, listeria can cause serious illness or death.
Can I prevent listeria infections?
The best way to prevent listeria infections is to handle, store, and prepare food properly. Wash your hands, cook food thoroughly to kill bacteria, and store food at cool enough temperatures to prevent bacteria from growing.
How do I know if my child has a listeria infection?
You probably won’t. Listeria infections may develop two to three weeks after eating infected food, but it may take as long as two months for symptoms to develop. Symptoms include:
How do I treat listeria infections?
Listeria infections are treated with antibiotics. If your child has a severe listeria infection, she may need to be hospitalised to receive intravenous antibiotic treatment. For less severe listeriosis, treat fever and muscle aches with paracetamol, and make sure that your child gets lots of rest and fluids.
Should I call the doctor?
Call the doctor if you are pregnant and have been exposed to the listeria bacteria. The consequences of a listeria infection for an unborn baby can be life threatening. If your child has a listeria infection and develops the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- Stiff neck
- Loss of balance
What you need to know about listeria
- Listeria infections are caused by unsafe bacteria in food.
- Most people never know they’ve had a listeria infection.
- Listeria infections produce flu-like symptoms.
- Serious listeria infections are treated with antibiotics.
- Listeria infections can be life-threatening for unborn babies.
Find more relevant articles and information about listeria
- Find out more about bacterial infections
- What are flu-like symptoms?
- Learn more about diarrhoea
- Learn more about fevers
- Learn more about gastroenteritis (gastro)
- What are some other stomach infections?
Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand’s parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health and Health Insite.
Last revised: Tuesday, 12 January 2010
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.