Jane Hansen of The Northern Star reports that when Amelia Liddy-Sudbury was pregnant with her third child, she was extra careful with her diet, never eating raw fish or soft cheese.
“I bought it, cut up and I think that was the source,” the 35-year-old Mosman mum said.
Thirty three weeks into her pregnancy, Mrs Liddy-Sudbury picked up a Listeria infection – one that could have killed her and her baby.
A fortnight later baby Theodore was delivered – five weeks premature – and would need weeks of intravenous antibiotics to stem meningitis.
“It is a deadset miracle he is alive, once you are diagnosed with listeriosis, that’s usually it, the baby is dead,” Mrs Liddy-Sudbury said.
Listeriosis, caused by the food-borne listeria bacteria, kills one out of every five unborn babies it infects.
Two weeks ago another pregnant mother tragically lost her baby to listeriosis.
The woman arrived at hospital with abdominal pain, headache and mild fever. Her baby was delivered by caesarean section but was stillborn as a result of the infection.
Including Mrs Liddy-Sudbury, it was the third pregnancy-related case this year in NSW, three times the usual rate.
NSW Health director Dr Vicky Sheppeard said the three cases represented a concerning spike.
“Around the country there have been more cases in the past six months as well,” she said.
Listeria bacteria is found in a variety of foods, including cold meats, cold cooked chicken, raw fish, soft-serve ice cream, soft cheeses and unpasteurised milk.
Most pregnant women know to avoid these foods, but the bacteria is also found in pre-cut fruit and pre-bagged salads, products that are highly popular in supermarkets and convenience stores.
“Those products are becoming more common and anything that has been cut and left is a risk, you have to wash and peel fruit and salad yourself if pregnant,” Dr Sheppeard said.
There are benefits to having an abundant supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.
However, the evidence does lean toward pre-cut anything being a heightened risk.
So if cutting up a whole rockmelon at home, refrigerate immediately.
This makes a mockery of the supermarket chains and fresh produce venders who sell half-sliced melons or cut up produce, usually at room temperature, which in Brisbane, is warmer than most places.