February 22, 2006
Mecklenburg County health officials say a case of listeriosis diagnosed in a newborn infant born last week highlights the need to make sure foods are prepared properly with fresh ingredients.
A trace of the bacterium, listeria, was found in the bloodstream of a baby born prematurely and delivered by cesarian section Feb. 18. Doctors believe the bacteria were transferred from the mother during delivery. The child is being treated with antibiotics.
During the latter part of her pregnancy, the mother told health investigators she ate a Mexican soft cheese sold by Hispanic street vendors in her northwest Charlotte neighborhood. Health officials believe that the cheese was likely made with unpasteurized milk and contained the listeria bacterium.
Listeriosis affects primarily pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. About 500 of the 2,500 persons who become infected each year will die.
Symptoms include fever, muscle aches and nausea or diarrhea. If an infection spreads to the central nervous system, symptoms can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance or convulsions. Infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery and infection of the newborn.
The bacteria is found in unpasteurized milk, uncooked meat and vegetables and processed foods that become contaminated after processing, such as soft cheeses and cold cuts. Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking.