Listeria and Older Adults

Listeria is a harmful germ that can be in some food.

Illustration of the Listeria pathogen

It rarely affects people who have a strong immune system. Most young, healthy adults won’t get sick from Listeria.

Illustration of a person laying in a hospital bed with an IV.

But it can cause serious illness and even death if you’re 65 or older. This is because your immune system has a harder time recognizing and getting rid of harmful germs like Listeria as you get older. You also have less stomach acid that helps kill germs.

Every year, 1,600 people in the U.S. get sick from Listeria, and more than half are older adults. Older adults with Listeria almost always have to be hospitalized, and, sadly, 1 in 6 die.

You can take steps to prevent getting Listeria.

Illustration of meat with a thermometer in it and some cheese.

Choose safer food options. See foods not to eat and foods to choose instead.

Check for recalled foods contaminated with Listeria:

Illustration of a healthcare provider on the phone.

Call a healthcare provider right away if you have a fever and feel more tired and achy than normal. You may also have a headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or seizures if you have Listeria. Early treatment can help save your life.

Printable Factsheet
Prevent getting sick from Listeria: Weakened Immunity

Print this 2-page factsheet about foods not to eat and foods to choose instead to prevent getting sick from Listeria.