Signs and Symptoms

Cronobacter illness is very rare, but it is often deadly in young infants. It usually occurs in the first days or weeks of life. Typically, CDC is informed of about 4­–6 cases of Cronobacter illness in infants each year, but reporting isn’t required. Cronobacter bacteria can cause severe blood infections (sepsis) or meningitis (an inflammation of the membranes that protect the brain and spine).

Who is most at risk?

Infants 2 months of age and younger are the infants that are most likely to develop meningitis if they are infected with Cronobacter bacteria. Infants born prematurely and those with weakened immune systems are also at risk for severe illness.

Cronobacter infection can also be very serious for older people and people whose bodies have trouble fighting germs, like people with HIV, organ transplants, or cancer.

What are the symptoms?

Sicknesses from Cronobacter look different depending on the person.

Babies (less than 1 year old)

  • In babies, especially babies less than 2 months old, Cronobacter germs usually get in the blood or make the lining of the brain and spine swell (meningitis).
  • Sickness from Cronobacter in babies will usually start with a fever and poor feeding, crying, or very low energy. Some babies may also have seizures. Babies with these symptoms should be taken to a doctor.
  • Babies with meningitis may develop serious, long-lasting problems in their brains. Up to 4 out of 10 babies with meningitis from Cronobacter can die.

People of all ages

  • Cronobacter can cause problems in cuts, scrapes, or places where people have had surgeries.
  • Cronobacter can also get into your urinary tract.
  • Older people and people with weakened immune systems (for example, people being treated with immune-suppressing drugs for cancer, organ transplants, or other illnesses, or those with HIV infection or genetic conditions that affect the immune system) may also get Cronobacter in their blood.