Signs and Symptoms

Cronobacter infections are rare, but when infections happen, they can be deadly for young infants. Cronobacer infections usually occur in the first days or weeks of life. Typically, CDC receives reports of about 2­ to 4 cases of Cronobacter illness in infants each year. But in most states, doctors are not required to report cases to their health department. Cronobacter bacteria can cause severe bloodstream infections (sepsis) or meningitis (an inflammation of the membranes that protect the brain and spine).

Who is most at risk?

Infants who are more likely to get sick include:

  • Infants less than 2 months old. These infants are most likely to develop meningitis if they get sick from Cronobacter.
  • Infants born prematurely.
  • Infants with weakened immune systems. Babies with certain medical conditions can’t fight germs as well because of their illness or medical treatment, such as chemotherapy for cancer.

Cronobacter infection can also be serious for:

  • People 65 years and older.
  • People whose immune systems are weakened by illnesses or conditions, such as HIV, organ transplants, or cancer.

Sicknesses from Cronobacter may look different depending on the person.

What are the symptoms?

Infants (less than 1 year old)

  • Sickness from Cronobacter in infants will usually start with a fever and poor feeding, excessive crying, or very low energy. Some babies may also have seizures. Babies with these symptoms should be taken to a medical provider as soon as possible.
  • In infants, especially those less than 2 months old, Cronobacter bacteria can get in the blood or make the lining surrounding the brain and spine swell (meningitis).
  • Babies with meningitis may develop serious, long-lasting problems in their brains. A recent report estimates that approximately 20% of infants with meningitis or bloodstream infections due to Cronobacter in the United States have died (Strysko, 2020). Worldwide, approximately 40% of infants reported to have Cronobacter meningitis or bloodstream infections have died (Strysko, 2020).

People of all ages

  • Cronobacter can cause problems in cuts, scrapes, or places where people have had surgeries.
  • Cronobacter can also get into the urinary tract.
  • People 65 years and older and people with weakened immune systems due to illness or conditions are more likely to get Cronobacter in their blood. People with weakened immune systems include those being treated with immune-suppressing drugs for cancer, other illnesses, or organ transplants, or those with HIV infection or genetic conditions.