The listeria outbreak: What pregnant women need to know

Alarmist alert: This post will be about the listeria outbreak.

Most of us have now heard about the listeria outbreak: Cantaloupes contaminated with the bacteria from a Colorado farm have been linked to a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis. As of this morning, 16 deaths and 72 illnesses have been connected, including a death in Maryland.

More on the outbreak is here:

I’m adding my copy to the pile because this risk is of particular concern to expectant parents. Pregnant women are up to 20 times more susceptible than other adults, says the Food and Drug Administration. If the infection is passed to a fetus, it can have life-threatening consequences.

We usually think of listeria originating from uncooked meats or unpasteurized dairy. But the bacteria can also be found in soil and water

In the current outbreak, the harm keeps spreading despite a two-week-old recall for several reasons: The cantaloupes were shipped nationwide; cantaloupes have a long shelf life; listeria can spread from its original host and contaminate an entire kitchen; and the infection can have a very, very long incubation period — up to 70 days.

Health experts are advising anyone who may have stored or eaten a contaminated cantaloupe to sanitize all the areas where it may have been, including countertops and refrigerators.

Symptoms can include fever and muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhea. If antibiotics are taken early, the infection can be cured and, in pregnant women, prevented from infecting the fetus.

More on listeria from FoodSafety.gov is here.

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