Listeriosis patient speaks out

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 50, No. 9, November 2008, Page 492 Letters

I am the pregnant woman you reference in your article “Listeriosis awareness among pregnant women and their health care providers in British Columbia” [BCMJ 2008;50:398-399]. The paper was also quoted in the Vancouver Sun on 18 September 2008. I was really surprised to read about my case and I was shocked when the author said “Although she had been counseled about food during her pregnancy, she was not aware of listeria or its potential risk to her and her baby. This case highlights a gap in the awareness of high-risk foods and listeriosis and preventive actions that can be taken by pregnant women.”

As a member of the South Community Birth Program my doctor did mention the risk of listeriosis, especially in sushi or any raw fish and in soft cheeses. I knew what listeriosis was and as a vegetarian I was really careful with what I was eating during my pregnancy. I even traveled to Africa when I was 8 weeks’ pregnant and I already knew not to eat any unpasteurized dairy products. 

What I wasn’t aware of was the risk of listeriosis in queso blanco. I traveled to Costa Rica during my pregnancy (when I was 18 weeks’ pregnant) and when the person from BCCDC called me, I told her that I had read on one of the packages of queso blanco that it was pasteurized but I recalled buying another brand a few days later and I was not 100% sure if I read the package to see if this other brand was pasteurized. There is also a chance I caught listeria in raw vegetables that weren’t washed properly because while in Costa Rica we had problems with our running water. My research has also informed me that the incidence of listeriosis is quite high in Costa Rica. 

As the latest outbreak has unfortunately highlighted, I agree that pregnant women need to be more aware of the risk of listeriosis, but I do not feel that my case is representative of someone who was uninformed.

—Marylene Têtu 

Marylene Têtu,. Listeriosis patient speaks out. BCMJ, Vol. 50, No. 9, November, 2008, Page(s) 492 - Letters.

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