Behavioral & Cognitive Disorders
Feb. 19, 2023
At vero eos et accusamus et iusto odio dignissimos ducimus qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum deleniti atque corrupti quos dolores et quas.
Listeriosis, a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, is an important public health problem 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 for safe food preparation, consumption, and storage.
What are the symptoms of listeriosis?
A person with listeriosis usually has fever and muscle aches, often preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Almost everyone who is diagnosed with listeriosis has "invasive" infection, in which the bacteria spread beyond the gastrointestinal tract. The symptoms vary with the infected person:
Listeriosis can present in different ways depending on the type of infection. Manifestations of listeriosis are host-dependent. In older adults and persons with immunocompromising conditions, septicemia and meningitis are the most common clinical presentations. Pregnant women may experience a mild, flu-like illness followed by fetal loss or bacteremia and meningitis in their newborns. Immunocompetent persons may experience acute febrile gastroenteritis or no symptoms.
People at risk
In the United States, an estimated 1,600 persons become seriously ill with listeriosis each year. Of these, 260 die.
At least 90% of people who get Listeria infections are in a higher risk group. Healthy children and adults occasionally get infected with Listeria, but they rarely become seriously ill.
The following groups are at increased risk:
How do I know if I have listeriosis? If you become very sick with fever and muscle aches or stiff neck, or if you develop fever and chills while pregnant, consult your doctor immediately. A blood or spinal fluid test (to look for the bacteria) will show if you have listeriosis.
Clinical diagnosis. 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.
For symptomatic patients, diagnosis is confirmed only after isolation of Listeria monocytogenes from a normally sterile site, such as blood, spinal fluid (in the setting of nervous system involvement), or amniotic fluid/placenta (in the setting of pregnancy). Stool samples are of limited use and are not recommended. Listeria monocytogenes can be isolated readily on routine media, but care must be taken to distinguish this organism from other Gram-positive rods, particularly diphtheroids. 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.
How can I reduce my risk for listeriosis?
The general guidelines recommended for the prevention of listeriosis are similar to those used to help prevent other foodborne illnesses, such as salmonellosis. In addition, there are specific recommendations for persons at higher risk for listeriosis. Recommendations related to Listeria in melons, including cantaloupes, are also included below.
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.
General recommendations to prevent an infection with Listeria:
FDA recommendations for washing and handling food.
Keep your kitchen and environment cleaner and safer.
Cook meat and poultry thoroughly.
Store foods safely.
Choose safer foods.
Recommendations for persons at high risk, such as pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems, in addition to the recommendations listed above, include:
How is listeriosis treated?
Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics. A person in a high-risk category who experiences flu-like symptoms 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 high risk for listeriosis.
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.
This information was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. Listeriosis. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/listeria/index.html. Accessed February 10, 2014.
The information in this document is for general educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for personalized professional advice. Although the information was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, MedLink Corporation, its representatives, and the providers of the information do not guarantee its accuracy and disclaim responsibility for adverse consequences resulting from its use. For further information, consult a physician and the organization referred to herein.