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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Food

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Preventing Listeriosis - In Pregnant Hispanic Women in the U.S. - About This Program

About This Program

(This document in Spanish)

Dear Community Educator,

We need your help. You can play a critical role in preventing the listeriosis disease in your community. This foodborne illness is caused by Listeria bacteria, and eating foods that contain this bacteria can lead to serious illness - and even death. The youngest victim of listeriosis is the unborn baby - who can become infected even though the mother doesn't feel sick! The message for pregnant women is simple: never eat dairy products made with unpasteurized milk. Pregnant women should only eat cheese that is labeled "made from pasteurized milk" and purchased in stores.

Pregnant Hispanic women in the U.S. are at critical risk for become infected by Listeria.

YOU can help keep these women and their babies safe!

  • All pregnant women are at serious risk for listeriosis - in fact, they are 20 times more likely to become infected than other healthy adults. That's because their immune systems are suppressed during pregnancy, so they are less able to fight off the infection.
  • Hispanic pregnant women are at even greater risk of listeriosis because of traditional dietary habits.
  • If a pregnant woman has listeriosis, her unborn baby can become ill - and even die.

Statistics Tell The Story

  • Recent serious listeriosis outbreaks were reported in California, Washington and North Carolina, where 12 cases of infected individuals - all Hispanic - were linked to eating contaminated, homemade Queso Fresco1.
  • In the most recent listeriosis outbreak, eleven victims were non-English speaking women and ten were pregnant. The infections resulted in five stillbirths, three premature deliveries, and two infected newborns.

1 U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The risk to Hispanic women is much higher than it is for the general population because of the cultural tradition of eating Mexican-style soft cheeses like Queso Fresco, which, in many Latin American countries, are often made from "raw" (unpasteurized) milk. Most women are simply unaware that cheese made with unpasteurized milk can harbor these deadly bacteria!

That's why this Preventing Listeriosis Community Educator's Guide was created. It will make it easier for you to spread this important health message throughout your community. The guide includes a variety of handouts and tools to be reproduced and distributed - along with background information for you regarding the disease, its symptoms, and how to prevent it.

Thank you for alerting women in your community about this potentially fatal condition. Pregnant women need to know that they could be putting their unborn babies at risk.

Sincerely yours,

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Food and Drug Administration