Listeriosis in Pregnancy: No More Peaches?

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There has been a major recall on stone fruits (in particular peaches, nectarines, plums and pluots) sold at stores including Walmart, Sam’s Club, Trader Joe's, Costco, Kroger's and Wegman's between June 1- July 12. The facility which processes the fruits was found to be contaminated with Listeria and thus recalled the fruit for POTENTIAL contamination. As of yet, no one is known to be sick with listeriosis from these fruits.

Listeria is a bacteria commonly found in soil, plants, and water. However, human infections are most commonly secondary to food contamination. Although the prevalence of listeria is high, the incidence of infection is only 0.29/100,000 people. So why do we care about something that is so unlikely to happen?

In pregnancy, a systemic infection of listeria can be devastating. It can lead to premature delivery, stillbirth, miscarriage and problems for the newborn. Obviously this is really scary. That being said, don't forget the incidence is 0.0000029%! So really the chances you can get infected are slim at best.

Symptoms vary with an acute infection and a systemic infection. The acute infection presents as a gastrointestinal illness with fever and watery diarrhea. The acute infection typically will occur within a week after eating the contaminated food. For this particular food recall, the risk of GI infection is past.

Systemic, or sometimes termed invasive, listeriosis presents much later (average 35 days after eating contaminated food). In pregnancy it presents with fever, flu-like muscle aches/back pain and less commonly confusion and convulsions. It is this type of infection that can pass through the placenta to the baby and in the amniotic fluid.

Frequently listeria is asymptomatic. In absence of symptoms the recommendations are to not test or treat for listeria.

If you have eaten a fruit that you are concerned about but have had no fevers and flu-like symptoms then you do not need to worry. If you have eaten a stone fruit and develop fevers and severe body aches or back pain (with fever) then you should be evaluated. In all likelihood, even with these symptoms, you do not have listeriosis. You would be examined and tested for other infections (UTI, viral illness, flu,etc). In absence of another explanation you might be placed on antibiotics to treat listeriosis.

You will likely hear a lot about listeriosis over the next few weeks. Remember, although it is scary, the chances are very low that you will be affected. With this current outbreak the recall was based on POTENTIAL contamination of fruits and not from documented illness in people.

As always, if you have concerns or questions call our office at 603-668-4646.
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