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Your Pregnancy Matters

Ice cream and listeria: Information for pregnant women

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Pregnant women who have recently eaten Blue Bell Ice Cream may be at risk of for a listeriosis infection.

Ice cream is a favorite treat among pregnant women. Unfortunately, an outbreak of listeria has been traced to Blue Bell Ice Cream products and that affects women here in Plano, where I practice, and all of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Here’s the scoop on the listeria outbreak and what you can do to protect yourself and your baby from bacterial infection.

The latest listeria outbreak

Ice cream, frozen yogurt, and other products made by Blue Bell have been recalled in 23 states, including Texas. Three people in Texas and five others in Kansas have been treated after testing positive for listeria.

If you have eaten products that have been linked to any listeria outbreak, we recommend calling your doctor. He or she will decide the best course of action. If you are experiencing any of the listeria symptoms, your doctor may want to test your blood and possibly start antibiotics.

Some patients we’ve talked to are very concerned but are not having any symptoms (fever, headache, muscle aches, and sore throats). In these cases, no testing or treatment is necessary.

What is listeria?

Listeria is a bacteria that causes listeriosis infection, which can be spread by contaminated foods. Listeria outbreaks are often caused by deli meats, hot dogs, and cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. In 2014, some raw fruits and caramel apples were contaminated.

Anyone can get sick from listeria, but pregnant women are especially vulnerable. In fact, it infects pregnant women at a rate 13 times higher than women who are not pregnant. It typically affects women who are healthy and is generally diagnosed in the third trimester. Pregnant women with diabetes or HIV, or who are or on steroid therapy, are even more likely to come down with an infection.

If a pregnant woman contracts listeria, it can be transmitted to the baby and cause serious problems, including premature birth, miscarriage, and stillbirth.

To learn more about the symptoms associated with listeria and how to avoid it, please read this post by my colleague, Dr. Robyn Horsager-Boehrer.

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