Woman’s miscarriage blamed on Listeria cantaloupe

Posted on October 7, 2011 by

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A pregnant Iowa woman has suffered a miscarriage after contracting a listeria infection tied to tainted cantaloupe, underscoring the seriousness of the ongoing outbreak in mothers-to-be, according to state health officials.

“My understanding was that this played a substantial role in the miscarriage,” said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the Iowa Department of Public Health medical examiner, who couldn’t identify the woman more specifically because of privacy concerns.

The Iowa case was the first reported in that state and one of three infections reported in pregnant women. Two of the women have continued their pregnancies and are being monitored, said CDC officials, who could not immediately identify their states. The current Listeria outbreak is the first ever seen in melons and it raises concerns among pregnant women, who are especially vulnerable to the food poisoning infections, said Dr. Adam Borgida, assistant director of maternal fetal medicine at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut.

During pregnancy, a woman’s immune system gears down to prevent her body from rejecting her fetus, Borgida said. That dip in immunity makes her more vulnerable to foodborne illness, particularly Listeria. Pregnant women may develop severe symptoms, including fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea. In addition, the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria are able to cross the placenta, where they can infect the developing fetus, he explained. If infection occurs early in pregnancy, it can cause a miscarriage. If it occurs later, it can result in stillbirths or in life-threatening illness in newborns.

“These babies are very sick,” Borgida said. “Many can’t survive that.”

Most pregnant women are told to avoid common sources of Listeria, including hot dogs, deli meats and unpasteurized cheeses, Borgida said. With Listeria now confirmed in cantaloupe and a recall last week because of Listeria detected in Romaine lettuce, pregnant women must be more vigilant that ever about food safety, he said. “It’s kind of basic food recommendations. Wash your hands, wash your food, cook your food well,” Borgida said.

The infection in Iowa was something of a surprise, said Quinlisk. Iowa was not among the more than two-dozen states that received direct distribution of more than 310,000 cases of recalled whole cantaloupes. Interviews with the woman who lost her baby indicated that she ate fruit purchased from an Iowa store. The investigation is continuing, Quinlisk said.

Source: MSNBC

Posted in: Family safety