What is a foodborne illness?

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What is a foodborne illness?

You may have heard about foodborne illness epidemics in the news, for example, caused by E. coli O157:H7 or Listeria monocytogenes . Commonly known as “food poisoning,” it is an illness that occurs in people who eat or drink harmful microorganisms (bacteria, parasites, viruses) or chemical contaminants found in some foods or drinking water.
“Why should I worry about foodborne illness?”
And you are at particularly high risk of foodborne illness because your immune system is compromised during pregnancy. This is a natural state that helps mother and fetus understand each other. However, this weakness may make it more difficult for your body to defend itself against harmful foodborne microorganisms. Your unborn baby is also at increased risk because the baby’s immune system is not developed enough to defend itself against these microorganisms.

“What are the symptoms of foodborne illness?”
Symptoms vary, but may include stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea. Foodborne illnesses are sometimes confused with the flu as the symptoms resemble a flu-like state with fever, headache and body aches.

“How soon can symptoms of foodborne illness appear?”
Eating a contaminated food will usually cause illness 1-3 days later, but illness can manifest as little as 20 minutes after eating, or up to six weeks later. The effects of exposure to certain elements, such as methylmercury, may be evident several months later, since the levels of this metal in the body can take time to increase.

“What should I do if I have symptoms of foodborne illness?”
Consult your doctor or health care provider immediately . In the event that you become ill after eating out, you should also contact your local Health Department so they can investigate whether there is an outbreak of foodborne illness in your area.

“How serious can a foodborne illness be for me?”
Foodborne illnesses during pregnancy can cause serious health problems, miscarriages, premature labor, stillbirth, or even the death of the mother. Different microorganisms or chemical contaminants can affect the mother and the fetus or newborn in different ways.

For example, sometimes foodborne illnesses can make a mother sick and tired or dehydrated. Other times, symptoms are absent or so mild that the mother doesn’t even realize she is infected, but she still passes the infection on to her unborn baby, who can experience serious effects from the disease.

“How can foodborne illness affect my baby?”
Harmful foodborne microorganisms or some metals found in food can cross the placenta and harm the developing fetus. Consequently, the infected fetus or newborn can suffer a wide range of health problems or even death. Read on as this website shows you how to protect your baby.

“What is the general treatment for foodborne illness?”
A doctor may perform blood tests or request a stool test. An important part of treatment is maintaining hydration, especially if the mother has vomiting or diarrhea. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics that are safe to use during pregnancy to cure the mother’s infection. In most cases, these drugs also prevent infection of the fetus or newborn and can be given to babies born with foodborne illness.

“How can I prevent foodborne illness?”
Preventing foodborne illness is really easy. In fact, you and your entire family should follow good food safety practices even after the baby is born!

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