VVMC Focus: Listeriosis is found in more than just cantaloupe | VailDaily.com

VVMC Focus: Listeriosis is found in more than just cantaloupe

Daily staff report
VAIL CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyHeather Gilmartin

The CDC reports that at least 22 people in seven states have been infected with the outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes from cantaloupe shipped by Jensen Farms, Granada, Colorado. The company has voluntarily recalled all Rocky Ford Cantaloupe shipped from July 29 through Sept. 10, 2011. The CDC is warning consumers not to eat Rocky Ford Cantaloupe and to discard any cantaloupe with an unknown origin should be discarded.

Currently the FDA and the state of Colorado are working to remove all product from the marketplace and investigating where in the supply chain the contamination occurred.

Consumers should rest assured though, the risk of Listeriosis is very small, and the bacteria can be found in other foods besides cantaloupes.

Vail Daily: What is Listeriosis?

Heather Gilmartin: Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, and has been recently recognized as an important public health problem in the U.S. The disease affects primarily pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems. It can be avoided by following a few simple recommendations.

VD: How do you get Listeriosis?

HG: You get listeriosis by eating food contaminated with Listeria. Babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers eat contaminated food during pregnancy. Although healthy persons may consume contaminated foods without becoming ill, those at increased risk for infection can probably get listeriosis after eating food contaminated with even a few bacteria. Persons at risk can prevent Listeria infection by avoiding certain high-risk foods and by handling food properly

VD: What is the risk?

HG: In the U.S., an estimated 2,500 persons become seriously ill with listeriosis each year. Of these, 500 die. At increased risk are: Pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and those with a weakened immune system.

VD: How does Listeria get into food?

HG: Listeria monocytogenes is found in soil and water. Fruits and vegetables can become contaminated form the soil or from manure used as fertilizer. Animals can carry bacterium without appearing ill and can contaminate foods of animal origin such as meats and dairy products. The bacterium has been found in a variety of raw foods, such as uncooked meats and vegetables, as well as in processed foods that become contaminated after processing, such as soft cheeses and cold cuts at the deli counter. Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking; however in certain ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and deli meats, contamination may occur after cooking but before packaging.

VD: What are the symptoms of having a listeria infection?

HG: Listeria doesn’t happen right after being exposed to the virus; often symptoms take three weeks or more to become noticeable. Persons who think they might have become ill should consult their healthcare provider. Listeria symptoms include fever and muscle aches.

Heather Gilmartin is an advanced practice nurse and the nurse epidemiologist at Vail Valley Medical Center. Heather has lived in Colorado for 16 years. Heather is currently pursing a PhD in Clinical Research from the University of Colorado College of Nursing.

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