Listeria is a rare but serious illness caused by a bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes, which is carried on uncooked and processed foods in particular. Listeria is a form of food poisoning and cannot be passed from person to person – the illness cannot be contracted by coming in contact with an infected person.
A UK Health Protection Agency report has concluded that people with cancer, particularly blood cancers are more susceptible to developing listeria.
Most people who become infected with the bacteria do not get ill. However, people with a weakened immune system, such as those with blood cancers, pregnant women and unborn or newborn babies, are more likely to develop symptoms.
If a severely immunosuppressed person is infected with listeria there is a serious risk that they may develop a life-threatening infection. The recent report shows that cancer patients are five times more likely to develop listeria than people without cancer. Blood cancer patients are three times more likely again to develop the illness than those with other cancers.
The precautions being advised by the Health Protection Agency include avoiding prepacked and sliced meats, soft cheeses and pre-cooked meals.
Dr David Grant, Scientific Director at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research said, “Listeria is a very rare disease. However, it is certainly advisable for all those at increased risk to follow the guidelines recently set out by the Health Protection Agency.”
For the full guidelines and for more information about listeria visit the Health Protection Agency website.