ANY pregnant woman with unexplained fever should be suspected of having listeriosis and treated by her GP with antibiotics, according to guidelines from the Department of Health. Its working party on listeriosis, set up in the wake of food safety scares three years ago, says the illness resembles mild influenza in healthy people, although symptoms are more severe in pregnant women. Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, still-birth or severe illness in the newborn. Prompt treatment with antibiotics improves the outlook for the unborn child, it says.

Listeriosis has been linked to some foods, including certain soft cheeses, pates and prepared salads. But women who lose their babies because of it should not analyse what they ate and blame themselves: not all cases are caused by food.