Listeria Fears & Why You Should Still Be Worried

So far, 4 people around the country have died after getting listeria food poisoning from contaminated cantaloupes. I don't care how "chill" you are, those numbers are scary. And it gets worse.

According to the CDC, there are 35 cases in 10 states, including one person in Oklahoma, one in Colorado, and two in New Mexico who have died. Pretty terrifying stuff, really. But how scared do we need to be?

Listeria was one of those things I knew existed during my pregnancy (it is particularly dangerous for pregnant women), but I did not worry about it. Now I am wondering if I should have.


All of the cantaloupes came from Jensen Farms in Colorado and they have recalled all cantaloupes shipped from July 29 through Sept. 10 to at least 17 states, but further distribution may have occurred. The concern is about pre-sliced cantaloupes of unknown origin that may even still be on the shelves. So, yes. We still need to worry. But what is Listeria really?

According to WebMD:

Listeria monocytogenes bacteria cause a disease called listeriosis. The bacteria are commonly found in the soil, where they eat dead plant matter. When consumed, the bacteria change their nature and become able to enter cells. Unless controlled by immune responses, they can escape the gut and enter the bloodstream.

If the bacteria enters the bloodstream, listeria is extremely serious. It can enter the brain and nervous system, causing disability or death. But it is most dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or death of the newborn.

Listeriosis is mostly a problem for older adults, people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and newborns.

If you are worried that you may have eaten tainted cantaloupe, here are the symptoms to watch for:

  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

The problem is, they seem like everything else, right? Symptoms would likely begin within a few days after eating contaminated food, but could take up to two months before really starting to show.

If the listeria infection spreads to your nervous system, those symptoms are:

  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion or changes in alertness
  • Loss of balance
  • Convulsions

Of course, now I am convinced I have Listeria because of some cantaloupe I had in July. I don't (I think) and you probably don't either, but like anything else, it is better to be on the safe side and be prepared.

Are you concerned about Listeria?



Image via Clay Irving/Flickr

Read More >