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Pregnant woman contracts Listeria infection from contaminated cantaloupe, gives birth to premature baby


(NaturalNews) Never in her wildest dreams did Michelle Wakley-Paciorek think she could be harming her unborn baby by eating healthy fruits and vegetables during her pregnancy. But little did she know that unsafe food practices at an operation in Colorado would nearly rob her of her beautiful infant child, Kendall Paciorek, and have lasting impacts on her health.

Wakley-Paciorek was one of 147 people in 28 states affected by a Listeria outbreak that originated from contaminated cantaloupe produced at Jensen Farms in Holly, Colorado 2011. The outbreak was responsible for causing 33 deaths and one miscarriage, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The expecting mother contracted listeriosis, a food-borne disease caused by listeria bacteria, after snacking on some cantaloupe. She began to experience several flu-like symptoms including "headaches, aching legs, sweats, chills and dry heaves," according to Food Safety News.

But Wakley-Paciorek mistook the symptoms as being part of her pregnancy, and unfortunately, so did her doctor.

Infant struggles to survive after contracting Listeria while in the womb

One day while she and her 4-year-old daughter were getting pedicures, Wakley-Paciorek suddenly went into labor, giving birth to Kendall three months prematurely. "[T]he doctors warned her parents about all sorts of dire medical complications that she could develop: blindness, deafness, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and others."

The doctors issued their prognosis before realizing that Wakley-Paciorek and her daughter both had listeriosis. They suspected an infection was involved, but were uncertain until receiving the blood results, which showed that listeria bacteria were responsible for the mother's symptoms and the premature birth.

The infant, struggling to survive, was one of three newborns diagnosed with listeriosis during the time of the outbreak.

"A week before she was born, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a voluntary recall of the entire crop of fresh, whole cantaloupe from Jensen Farms," reports Food Safety News.

"But the news about the Listeria[sic] outbreak linked to cantaloupes wasn't widespread when Kendall was born because people were just beginning to get sick. It can take up to 70 days for symptoms to develop after exposure."

Pregnant women 10 times more likely to contract listeriosis

Listeria bacteria are often found in soil and water, and transported by animals that don't appear ill, contaminating meat and dairy products, according to the CDC. Humans are known to contract the infection after eating contaminated foods, which include uncooked meats and veggies, and unpasteurized dairy products.

Pregnant are one of three groups most at risk for developing listeriosis as one in seven cases occur during pregnancy. The infection may cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature births or death in newborns.

Pregnant women are 10 times more likely to contract the infection, says the CDC. Other populations at risk include adults 65 and older and individuals with a weakened immune system including those with cancer, HIV/AIDS and diabetes.

Wakley-Paciorek's infection had entered her bloodstream, becoming so severe that the baby essentially pushed itself out in an effort to survive.

"Kendall was immediately put into a neonatal incubator with tubes and machines attached to her on all sides. The tiny 3-pound, 11-ounce baby was fighting for her life. She stayed in the incubator for weeks during which time her parents couldn't hold her."

For months, the baby had to be fed through a feeding tube in her stomach. "Every time she ate, she vomited," said Wakley-Paciorek. But Kendall's health began to turn around after being connected to an automatic drip feeder.

Born in September, the child finally got to home just a few days before Christmas. Almost 5-years-old, Kendall is smaller than most be appears to be developing normally.

Wakley-Paciorek says she can run, talk and say her ABCs, an impressive feat for the infant who cheated death.

Poor sanitation practices

The cause of the listeria outbreak has been attributed to poor sanitation practices at Jensen Farms.

The FDA found that "several areas on both the washing and drying equipment appeared to be uncleanable[sic] and dirt and product buildup was visible on some areas of the equipment, even after it had been disassembled, cleaned and sanitized."

Additionally, the operation had abandoned its antimicrobial wash, allowing melons to cross-contaminate the equipment and other melons. This allowed bacteria existing on a single melon to spread to entire batch before being distributed across the nation.

In order to prevent food-borne illness, it's been recommended that women avoid foods such as unwashed fruits and veggies, raw sprouts, under-cooked meat, raw fish, unpasteurized juice, eggs that aren't fully cooked and salads prepared in retail locations that contain ham, chicken salad or tuna salad.




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