LISTERIA can cause infections when ingested, creating a host of problems.

We explain what the symptoms are and if you can die from it. Here is what we know.

 Listeriosis is a rare infection caused by bacteria called listeria


Listeriosis is a rare infection caused by bacteria called listeriaCredit: Getty – Contributor

What is Listeria?

Listeria is a bacteria that can cause the infection listeriosis if ingested.

It can grow and reproduce inside the host’s cells and is one of the most virulent food based pathogens.

20 to 30 per cent of food borne listeriosis infections in high-risk individuals may be fatal.

The majority of people infected barely notice the illness but those who are high risk, such as pregnant women, babies, the elderly or those with a weakened immune system, may develop a serious infection.

 It is caught by eating food containing the listeria bacteria


It is caught by eating food containing the listeria bacteriaCredit: Getty – Contributor

Can you die from it?

Yes, in severe cases you can.

Five hospital patients have died from listeria from dodgy sandwiches.

Public Health England confirmed on June 7 that an investigation had been launched after six patients picked up the bug.

The number of confirmed cases has since risen to nine.

Latest outbreak and deaths

The health secretary has ordered a review of hospital food after five patient deaths were linked to an outbreak of listeria.

Public Health England (PHE) confirmed the total number of deaths related to pre-packed sandwiches and salads had risen from three to five.

Products from the Good Food Chain – linked to the outbreak – have been withdrawn and production stopped.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I have been incredibly concerned by this issue and strongly believe that we need a radical new approach to the food that is served in our NHS.

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“Staff, patients and families deserve so much better – our NHS should be at the forefront of supporting people to make healthy choices.

“I have instructed the NHS to conduct a root and branch review of hospital food.”

What has PHE said?

The Good Food Chain supplied 43 NHS trusts across the UK.

It had been supplied with meat produced by North Country Cooked Meats, which subsequently produced a positive test result for the outbreak strain of listeria.

PHE said it had been analysing previously known cases of listeria from the past two months to see if they were linked.

“To date, there have been no patients linked to this incident outside healthcare organisations, but we continue to investigate,” Dr Nick Phin, of Public Health England, said.

“Swift action was taken to protect patients and any risk to the public is low.”

He added: “PHE is continuing to analyse all recent and ongoing samples of listeria from hospital patients to understand whether their illness is linked to this outbreak.”

How do you catch it?

It is usually caught from eating food that contains the bacteria.

You can get it from many different types of food.

It mainly happens with these foods:

  • unpasteurised milk
  • dairy products made from unpasteurised milk
  • soft cheeses, like camembert and brie
  • chilled ready-to-eat foods, like prepacked sandwiches, pâté and deli meats

If you have eaten these foods it does not automatically mean you will get listeria.

You should only go to the doctor if you start to feel the symptoms.

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You can also catch listeria from someone else who has it, for example, if you eat food that was handled by someone who did not wash their hands.

If you get in close contact with farm animals – especially sheep and cows – when they are giving birth.

What are the symptoms?

Most people only experience mild symptoms for a few days.

Those are:

  • a high temperature of 38C or above
  • aches and pains
  • chills
  • feeling sick or vomiting
  • diarrhoea

However, pregnant women, babies, those with a weak immune system and the elderly are at risk and should contact 111 immediately if they believe they have listeriosis.

You may need a blood test to determine if you’ve been infected.

You should call 999 or go to A&E if you experience more severe symptoms.

They are:

  • a severe headache and stiff neck
  • discomfort when looking at bright lights
  • fits (seizures)
  • sudden confusion

How do you avoid listeriosis?

Here is what you can do to avoid getting the bacterial infection:

  • wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • wash your fruit and vegetables before eating them
  • store your ready-to-eat foods as recommended by the manufacturer
  • make sure all your hot food is hot all the way through
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