By Lindsey Carroll
Morris News Service
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Feta, brie and Camembert. Which one of these cheeses could damage a pregnant woman and her baby?
All three soft cheeses, as it turns out.
ìAnything that isn–t made with pasteurized milk, make sure to read the labels,– said Lana McCoy, a registered nurse at a local hospital.
McCoy said not only pregnant women but also elderly people, especially people with weakened immune systems, could be at risk for Listeria monocytogens.
Listeria is a type of bacteria that can be found everywhere — in soil, groundwater and also on plants. Animals and people can carry Listeria in their bodies, even without actually being sick. Most of the infections in humans are caused by eating contaminated food.
Listeria is treatable with medication. However, there can be major consequences if left untreated. Listeria can get into the nervous system and spread throughout the body and, in some cases, even cause death.
McCoy said listeriosis has flu-like symptoms — fever, chills, muscle aches, diarrhea and upset stomach.
If the infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms may include headaches, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and even convulsions. If these symptoms persist, a doctor should be consulted immediately.
McCoy said about 20 percent of Listeriosis cases result in death.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 2,500 people become seriously ill and 500 die each year.
However, ìI have only known of two women that tested positive for Listeria monocytogens,– McCoy said.
Antibiotics are given to help pregnant women who have contracted the bacteria and to help prevent the infection from entering the fetus or the newborn. If the baby is born with the bacteria, there are also medications available.
Prevention is the best medicine, however. McCoy said people just need to be careful about what kind of foods they eat.