The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday urged pregnant women to maintain good hand hygiene and avoid eating raw food after it reported a case of listeriosis in a newborn, who might have contracted the disease from her mother after she ate contaminated food during the pregnancy.
Epidemic Intelligence Center Deputy Director Guo Hung-wei (郭宏偉) said that the nation’s first case of neonatal listeriosis reported this year was an infant born in northern Taiwan late last month with shortness of breath.
“Examination results showed that she had contracted listeriosis,” Guo said. “The mother had eaten salad and sashimi in May and June, so doctors think there is a high possibility that the infant was infected through vertical transmission from her mother.”
Photo: Lin Hui-chin, Taipei Times
So far this year Taiwan has reported 97 cases of listeriosis, lower than in the same period in 2018, which had 121 cases, and last year, which had 129 cases, he said.
Since the CDC designated listeriosis a category 4 notifiable communicable disease in 2018, 430 cases have been reported, with about the same number of female and male patients, he said.
However, people aged 65 or older accounted for 57 percent of the cases, he said.
There were four cases of neonatal listeriosis among them, and nine cases of premature delivery, miscarriage or stillbirth due to Listeria infection, Guo said.
CDC physician Lin Yung-ching (林詠青) said that Listeria bacteria can be found in soil, water and elsewhere in the environment, while people can be infected by eating contaminated food.
In rare cases, neonatal listeriosis can occur through vertical transmission of the bacteria from mother to fetus, Lin said.
“Food with higher risk of Listeria contamination include deli meat, sashimi, raw vegetables and unpasteurized milk or food made with unpasteurized milk,” he said.
The bacteria can survive in temperatures as low as about 4°C, he said, adding that food should be heated to 72°C to kill the bacteria.
People with a weak immune system should avoid eating raw food, he said.
“People with a healthy immune system might have no symptoms or only mild gastrointestinal symptoms — such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or fever — after eating food contaminated with Listeria, but they can usually recover on their own,” he said.
However, people with higher risks of serious illness, including elderly people, infants, pregnant women and people with a weak immune system, might develop septicemia, a central nervous system infection or other severe symptoms, Lin said.
The center urges pregnant women to avoid eating raw food and to maintain good hand hygiene to prevent listeriosis, and if people experience a fever, headache, nausea, vomiting or other symptoms after eating raw food, they should seek medical attention as soon as possible, he said.
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