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Listeriosis is a food-borne illness transmitted by bacteria in contaminated food. The listeria organism has been found in a variety of raw foods, such as uncooked meats and vegetables, as well as in processed foods that become contaminated after processing, such as soft cheeses and cold cuts at the deli counter. Unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk may contain the bacterium.
Infection occurs after eating a contaminated food. It is most common during the third trimester of pregnancy, and women often have flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, and sometimes nausea or diarrhea. The fetus and newborn are at greatest risk from the infection. Listeriosis may cause infection in the amniotic membranes leading to miscarriage, stillbirth, or severe infection in a newborn. Antibiotics are used to treat the infection when it is diagnosed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following measures to help prevent listeriosis infection:
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