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Listeriosis

[lis-teer-ee-o-sis]

Cold cuts on cutting board

Listeriosis is a serious foodborne illness (sometimes called “food poisoning”). People usually become ill with listeriosis after eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. The disease primarily affects pregnant women and their newborns, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Keep yourself and your loved ones safe from listeriosis and other foodborne illnesses by following CDC’s recommendations for people at higher risk for infection and the four basic steps to food safety – Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.

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Key Facts

  • Listeria strikes hard at pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems due to certain underlying medical conditions – such as cancer, diabetes, liver or kidney disease, alcoholism, and HIV/AIDS – or the treatment of these conditions.
  • Pregnant women with listeriosis can pass the infection to their fetus, which can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
  • Certain foods are more likely to contain Listeria. These foods are
    • queso fresco and other soft cheeses made from raw (unpasteurized) milk,
    • raw sprouts,
    • melons,
    • hot dogs, refrigerated pâtés, lunch meats, cold cuts, and fermented or dry sausages,
    • refrigerated smoked seafood, and
    • raw (unpasteurized) milk and products made from raw milk.
  • Listeriosis can cause a variety of symptoms, depending on whether the person is pregnant and the part of the body affected.
    • Pregnant women typically experience only fever and other flu-like symptoms themselves, such as fatigue and muscle aches, but the infection can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
    • Other people may experience fever and muscle aches and may have a headache, stiff neck, diarrhea, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.
  • If you ate food possibly contaminated with Listeria and do not feel sick, most experts believe you do not need tests or treatment.
  • If you ate food possibly contaminated with Listeria and have symptoms of infection within two months, you should seek medical care, especially if you are pregnant, aged 65 or older, or have a weakened immune system.
  • You can take steps to prevent listeriosis, which is especially important if you or someone you prepare food for has an increased chance of infection.

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Additional Resources

More at CDC.gov | en español

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