Listeriosis is an infection caused by bacteria called Listeria. Because the bacteria usually enter the body through food, the infection is also called food poisoning.
Often the illness is brief and does not need any treatment. However, the infection sometimes causes severe illness, such as a brain or a blood infection.
A newborn may be born with the infection if the mother was infected. Newborns can get much sicker than their mothers. The infection is also more likely to affect children who have weakened immune systems. The immune system is the body's defense against infections.
The bacteria can live in the animal or human intestine. Bowel movements can spread the bacteria to soil or water. Vegetables or fruit can be contaminated by contact with this soil or water. Contaminated food usually looks and smells normal.
Your child may get infected if:
In many cases, the source of infection is not known.
Your child’s symptoms may begin a few days after he’s eaten contaminated food, or he may not have symptoms until weeks after he is infected.
Symptoms may include:
If the infection spreads to the nervous system it can cause meningitis. Meningitis is an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of meningitis may include:
Meningitis can be fatal.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Fluid from your child’s blood, spine, or joints, may be tested for bacteria.
Mild infections often get better without treatment. For a serious infection your child may need to take antibiotic medicine for several weeks to make sure all of the bacteria are gone.
If a baby gets infected at birth or soon afterward, the baby will usually need antibiotics.
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Make sure that your child takes all medicines exactly as prescribed. If your child stops taking the medicine too soon, the infection may come back. If your child has side effects from the medicine, talk to your provider.
Here are some things you can do to help your child feel better:
Ask your healthcare provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
These steps can help prevent food poisoning: