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People at Risk


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When Food Bites Back: Protecting Those at Risk for Listeria Food Poisoning
A new Vital Signs report on foodborne illness looks at one of the most deadly germs spread by contaminated food—Listeria—and the people it strikes the hardest.

In the United States, an estimated 1,600 people get sick from Listeria germs each year. Of these, 260 die 1.

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.

Key Facts for Those at Highest Risk:

	Photo: Pregnant lady holding her stomachThe following groups are at increased risk:

  • Pregnant women: About one in seven (14%) cases of Listeria infection occurs during pregnancy 2. 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 2.
    • Pregnant Hispanic women are about 24 times more likely than the general population to get Listeria infection 2.
  • Older adults: More than half (58%) of Listeria infections occur among adults 65 and older 2.
    • Adults 65 years and older are about 4 times more likely than the general population to get Listeria infection 2.
  • People with weakened immune systems: Individuals within this group also have a higher risk for Listeria infection due to underlying medical conditions such as cancer and  immunosuppresive therapy (i.e., steroids, chemotherapy, radiation),  liver or kidney disease, diabetes, alcoholism, and HIV/AIDS.

All New! For Spanish speakers

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Vital Signs: Recipe for Food Safety (in Spanish) [PDF - 4 pages]
The new translation of the Recipe for Food Safety fact sheet is now available in Spanish. Download this PDF to share with Spanish-speakers.

Advice for pregnant women about Listeria (Spanish podcast)
Listen to epidemiologist Ruth Luna-Gierke to learn what pregnant women can do to protect their unborn children.

For more information, visit:

	Photo: Close up of a newborn infant


  1. Scallan E, Hoekstra RM, Angulo FJ, Tauxe RV, Widdowson MA, Roy SL, Jones JL, Griffin PM. Foodborne illness acquired in the United States--major pathogens. Emerging infectious diseases. 2011;17(1):7-15.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital signs: listeria illnesses, deaths, and outbreaks - United States, 2009-2011. MMWR Morbidity and mortality weekly report. 2013;62(22):448-52.