You may be taking a break from some of your favorite snacks lately, due to recent concerns over listeria bacteria in food products.  A food-borne, bacterial infection most often passed through unpasteurized dairy products and deli meats that haven’t been processed properly, listeria can survive refrigeration, making it more important to avoid foods that can breed the harmful bacteria.  Foods that may contain listeria include soft cheeses like brie or camembert, raw sprouts, refrigerated smoked seafood, pates and meat spreads, and hot dogs.

While most people will not be affected, we at AFC/Doctors Express want those most at risk -- pregnant women, older adults and people with compromised immune systems -- to be aware of the signs and symptoms of this bacterial infection.

Common listeria symptoms include fevers, aching muscles, nausea and diarrhea. More severe symptoms can occur if the bacterial infection goes undetected, spreading to the nervous system, and in some cases, causing bacterial meningitis. If you notice any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:  headache, stiff neck, confusion or changes in alertness, loss of balance and convulsions.

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And since pregnant women are susceptible to listeria infection, newborns are at risk, too. If your infant shows signs of irritability, fever, vomiting or disinterest in feeding, care must be sought.

Early treatment with antibiotics can help keep a listeria infection from becoming severe and life-threatening, but the best defense is a good offense.  Here are some tips to help prevent listeria infections.

  • Avoid unpasteurized or raw milk, as well as foods that may contain raw milk.
  • Heat processed meats like hot dogs and deli meats before eating them.
  • Cook raw meats and seafood thoroughly, making sure they reach the proper internal temperature.
  • Don’t wait to eat perishable foods; consume them as soon as possible.
  • Separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods to prevent bacteria from growing and spreading.
  • Thoroughly wash all produce under running water, and promptly wash cutting boards, knives and surfaces that may have come in contact with raw food after use.

As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so keep these tips in mind the next time you’re cooking for your household.

AFC/Doctors Express Urgent Care in South Plainfield is a state-of-the-art urgent care center open extended hours seven days a week.  Walk-ins are welcome, most insurance plans are accepted, and we offer a comprehensive suite of in-house services that include digital x-rays and on-site lab testing. All patients are treated by board-certified physicians and our wait times are comparatively short.  Visit us at 907 Oak Tree Avenue, Oak Park Commons (near the Super A&P) in South Plainfield or call us at 908-222-3500.  We’re open weekdays from 8am - 8pm and weekends from 8am – 5pm