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What causes listeriosis?

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Quick Answer

Infection by the listeria bacteria through consumption of contaminated raw vegetables, infected animal meat, unpasteurized milk and milk products, and foods contaminated after processing causes listeriosis. The listeria bacteria may infect an unborn baby through the placenta if the mother is infected, says Mayo Clinic.

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Full Answer

The listeria bacteria thrives in water, soil and some animals and can infect raw milk and raw milk foods, says FoodSafety.gov. Apart from ready-to-eat meats and unpasteurized dairy products, this bacteria also spreads through refrigerated smoked seafood and raw sprouts. Unlike many other germs, listeria is potent even in cold temperatures and is killed by pasteurization and cooking.

Pregnant women, older adults, newborns and adults with impaired immune systems are at high risk of being affected by listeriosis and may become more seriously ill than healthy adults who are infected. Common symptoms of infection by the listeria bacteria include a stiff neck, nausea, fever, muscle aches and diarrhea. Convulsions and loss of balance may occur if the bacteria spreads to the nervous system, says WebMD.

To prevent listeriosis, avoid unpasteurized dairy products and partially cooked foods, suggests FoodSafety.gov. Separate meats from fresh and ready-to-eat produce to prevent cross contamination. Wash all cooking utensils thoroughly after preparing raw foods, and serve food hot whenever possible.

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