Listeriosis (patient information)

Jump to navigation Jump to search

For the WikiDoc page for this topic, click here.



What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?

Who is at highest risk?

When to seek urgent medical care?


Treatment options

Where to find medical care for Listeriosis?

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complications


Listeriosis On the Web

Ongoing Trials at Clinical

Images of Listeriosis

Videos on Listeriosis

FDA on Listeriosis

CDC on Listeriosis

Listeriosis in the news

Blogs on Listeriosis

Directions to Hospitals Treating Listeriosis

Risk calculators and risk factors for Listeriosis

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-chief: Priyamvada Singh, M.B.B.S; João André Alves Silva, M.D. [2]


Listeriosis, a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, is an important public health concern in the United States. The disease primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. However, rarely, persons without these risk factors can also be affected. The risk may be reduced by following a few simple recommendations.

What are the Symptoms of Listeriosis?

The symptoms vary with the infected person:

Late-onset infection in the infant (symptoms appear age 5 days or older) and infection in children is often seen as meningitis.

What Causes Listeriosis?

You get listeriosis by eating food contaminated with Listeria. Babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers eat contaminated food during pregnancy. However, healthy persons may consume contaminated foods without becoming ill. Persons at risk can prevent Listeria infection by avoiding certain high-risk foods and by handling food properly.

The bacterium has been found in a variety of foods, such as:

  • Uncooked meats and vegetables
  • Unpasteurized (raw) milk and cheeses as well as other foods made from unpasteurized milk
  • Cooked or processed foods, including certain soft cheeses, processed (or ready-to-eat) meats, and smoked seafood

Listeria are killed by cooking and pasteurization. However, in some ready-to-eat meats, such as hot dogs and deli meats, contamination may occur after factory cooking but before packaging or even at the deli counter.

Also, be aware that Mexican-style cheeses (such as queso fresco) made from pasteurized milk and likely contaminated during cheese-making have caused Listeria infections.

Unlike most bacteria, Listeria can grow and multiply in some foods in the refrigerator.

Who is at Highest Risk?

Vegetables, meats, and other foods you eat can get infected with the bacteria if they come in contact with contaminated soil or manure. Raw milk or products made from raw milk may carry these bacteria. If you eat the contaminated products, you may get sick.

The following groups are at increased risk:[1]

  • Pregnant women: About one in seven (14%) cases of Listeria infection occurs during pregnancy. The bacteria may cross the placenta and infect the developing baby. Infection during pregnancy can cause fetal loss (miscarriage or stillbirth), preterm labor, and illness or death in newborn infants.
  • Pregnant women are about 10 times more likely than the general population to get Listeria infection.
  • Pregnant Hispanic women are about 24 times more likely than the general population to get Listeria infection
  • Adults 65 years and older are about 4 times more likely than the general population to get Listeria infection.

When to Seek Urgent Medical Care?

If you develop fever and chills while pregnant or if you are very sick with fever and muscle aches or stiff neck consult your doctor. A blood or spinal fluid test (to look for the bacteria) will show if you have listeriosis.


  • Listeria is found in the environment and all people are exposed to it regularly. Therefore, there is no clinical value in performing laboratory testing on asymptomatic patients, even if higher risk.
  • Stool samples are of limited use and are not recommended.
  • Selective enrichment media improve rates of isolation from contaminated specimens. You can expect that that the cultures will take 1-2 days for growth. Importantly, a negative culture does not rule out infection in the presence of strong clinical suspicion.
  • Serological tests are unreliable, and not recommended at the present time.

Treatment Options

  • Antibiotics given promptly can cure the illness and prevent infection of the fetus.
  • A person in a higher-risk category (pregnant woman, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems) who experiences fever and other non-specific symptoms, such as fatigue and aches, within 2 months of eating contaminated food should seek medical care and tell the physician or health care provider about eating the contaminated food.
  • If a person has eaten food contaminated with Listeria and does not have any symptoms, most experts believe that no tests or treatment are needed, even for persons at higher risk for listeriosis.

Where to Find Medical Care for Listeriosis?

Directions to Hospitals Treating Listeriosis

What to Expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

  • Listeriosis in a fetus or infant results in a poor outcome with a high death rate. Healthy older children and adults have a lower death rates.
  • Even with prompt treatment, some listeriosis cases result in death. This is particularly likely in older adults and in persons with other serious medical problems.

Possible Complications

Infants who survive listeriosis may have long-term neurological damage and delayed development.


There are some general recommendations on how to prevent an infection with Listeria, and some additional recommendations specifically for persons who are at higher risk.[2]

General Recommendations to Prevent an Infection with Listeria

  • FDA recommendations for washing and handling food:
  • Rinse raw produce, such as fruits and vegetables, thoroughly under running tap water before eating, cutting, or cooking. Even if the produce will be peeled, it should still be washed first.
  • Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
  • Dry the produce with a clean cloth or paper towel.
  • Separate uncooked meats and poultry from vegetables, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods.

  • Keep your kitchen and environment cleaner and safer.
  • Wash hands, knives, countertops, and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods.
  • Be aware that Listeria monocytogenes can grow in foods in the refrigerator. Use an appliance thermometer, such as a refrigerator thermometer, to check the temperature inside your refrigerator. :* The refrigerator should be 40°F or lower and the freezer 0°F or lower.
  • Clean up all spills in your refrigerator right away–especially juices from hot dog and lunch meat packages, raw meat, and raw poultry.
  • Clean the inside walls and shelves of your refrigerator with hot water and liquid soap, then rinse.
  • Cook meat and poultry thoroughly.
  • Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources, such as beef, pork, or poultry to a safe internal temperature. For a list of recommended temperatures for meat and poultry, visit the safe minimum cooking temperatures chart at
  • Store foods safely:
  • Use precooked or ready-to-eat food as soon as you can. Do not store the product in the refrigerator beyond the use-by date; follow USDA refrigerator storage time guidelines:
  • Hot Dogs – store opened package no longer than 1 week and unopened package no longer than 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
  • Luncheon and Deli Meat – store factory-sealed, unopened package no longer than 2 weeks. Store opened packages and meat sliced at a local deli no longer than 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
  • Divide leftovers into shallow containers to promote rapid, even cooling. Cover with airtight lids or enclose in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Use leftovers within 3 to 4 days.
  • Choose safer foods.
  • Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk, and do not eat foods that have unpasteurized milk in them.
  • Find more specific information about this topic on the Listeria and Food web page.

Recommendations for persons at higher risk, such as pregnant women, persons with weakened immune systems, and older adults in addition to the recommendations listed above

  • Meats
  • Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, cold cuts, other deli meats (e.g., bologna), or fermented or dry sausages unless they are heated to an internal temperature of 165°F or until steaming hot just before serving.
  • Avoid getting fluid from hot dog and lunch meat packages on other foods, utensils, and food preparation surfaces, and wash hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats, and deli meats.
  • Pay attention to labels. Do not eat refrigerated pâté or meat spreads from a deli or meat counter or from the refrigerated section of a store. Foods that do not need refrigeration, like canned or shelf-stable pâté and meat spreads, are safe to eat. Refrigerate after opening.
  • Soft Cheeses
  • Do not eat soft cheese such as feta, queso blanco, queso fresco, brie, Camembert, blue-veined, or panela (queso panela) unless it is labeled as made with pasteurized milk. Make sure the label says, "MADE WITH PASTEURIZED MILK."
  • Be aware that Mexican-style cheeses made from pasteurized milk, such as queso fresco, likely contaminated during cheese-making, have caused Listeria infections.
  • Seafood
  • Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood, unless it is contained in a cooked dish, such as a casserole, or unless it is a canned or shelf-stable product.
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, and mackerel, is most often labeled as "nova-style," "lox," "kippered," "smoked," or "jerky."
  • These fish are typically found in the refrigerator section or sold at seafood and deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens.
  • Canned and shelf stable tuna, salmon, and other fish products are safe to eat.

FDA advice for melon safety

  • Consumers and food preparers should wash their hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling any whole melon, such as cantaloupe, watermelon, or honeydew.
  • Scrub the surface of melons, such as cantaloupes, with a clean produce brush under running water and dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel before cutting. Be sure that your scrub brush is sanitized after each use, to avoid transferring bacteria between melons.
  • Promptly consume cut melon or refrigerate promptly. Keep your cut melon refrigerated at, or less than 40 degrees F (32-34 degrees F is best), for no more than 7 days.
  • Discard cut melons left at room temperature for more than 4 hours.


CDC Listeriosis


  1. "Vital Signs: Listeria Illnesses, Deaths, and Outbreaks".
  2. "Listeriosis Prevention".

Template:WH Template:WS