Add this to the list of odd things you have to do during pregnancy: Heat up your luncheon meat before you eat it. Why? To prevent listeriosis, an illness caused by the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium. When Listeria makes its way to your dinner table via contaminated meat, vegetables, or cheeses, it can make you very sick. Listeriosis is not a common disease -- only 2,500 people in the United States become seriously ill with it each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) -- but one in five who get it will die from the illness. Because of changes in their immune systems, pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis.
Listeriosis can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn babies because it can be transmitted to the fetus through the placenta even if the mother is not showing signs of illness. Listeriosis during pregnancy can result in premature delivery, miscarriage, fetal death, and severe illness or death of a newborn from infection.
Watch for flulike symptoms: a sudden onset of fever, chills, muscle aches, and sometimes diarrhea or upset stomach. The severity of the symptoms may vary. If the infection spreads to the nervous system, the symptoms may include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions. If you think you may have listeriosis, contact your doctor immediately. A blood test can determine whether your symptoms are caused by listeriosis. If you have it, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.
The best way to prevent listeriosis is to avoid or use extra caution with foods that might be contaminated with the Listeria bacteria. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the FDA provide the following advice for pregnant women:
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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